Entertainment and Events
For three weeks in June, the renowned Sitka Summer Music Festival (907/747-6744, www.sitkamusicfestival.org) attracts musicians from all over the world. Chamber music concerts are given several evenings per week in Centennial Hall, but the most fun is the annual BoatParty Concert (reserve early). Concert tickets may be hard to come by, but you can always visit rehearsals for free. Another cultural event, the Sitka Symposium (907/747-3794, www.islandinstitutealaska.org) in late June, attracts nationally known poets and writers.
In late May, visitors can join locals in the Sitka Salmon Derby, where the top fish is often a 60-pound-plus king salmon. July 4th features a parade, races, a softball tournament, live music, dancing, and fireworks. On Labor Day weekend, the Mudball Classic Softball Tournament attracts teams from around the nation for fun in the muck.
As the town where Alaska was officially transferred from Russian to American hands, Sitka is also the place to be on Alaska Day. A celebration of “Seward’s Folly” is held each October 18 with dances (including a remarkable performance by the New Archangel Dancers), traditional Russian costumes, a parade, and a reenactment of the brief transfer ceremony.
In early November, the Sitka Whalefest (907/747-7964, www.sitkawhalefest.org) attracts biologists and those who love whales and other marine mammals to a series of scientific seminars, whale-watching tours, concerts, crafts, and exhibits.
When cruise ships are in town, Herrigan Centennial Hall auditorium comes alive with half-hour performances of traditional Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldavian dance by the 30-member all-female New Archangel Dancers (907/747-5516, www.newarchangeldancers.com, $8). The troupe has toured extensively, including visits to Japan, Canada, Mexico, and even the Russian motherland.
For a very different form of dance, the Sheet’Ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Dancers (907/747-7290, $8 adults, $5 children) give Tlingit performances in full regalia through the summer months. These excellent half-hour productions are offered when cruise ships are in port. Most folks see them as part of a bus tour given by Tribal Tours. Performances take place in the imposing Sheet’Ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House, next to the Pioneers Home on Katlian Street.
Fishers and would-be crewmembers hang out at the sometimes-rowdy Pioneer Bar (Katlian St., 907/747-3456). The P-Bar’s walls are crowded with hundreds of photos of local fishing boats, and the blackboard often has “crew wanted” ads.
Inside the Sitka Hotel, Victoria’s Pourhouse (907/747-9301) has a gigantic TV, beer on tap, a smoke-free setting, and free Wi-Fi. Ernie’s Old Time Saloon (130 Lincoln St., 907/747-3334) features live music most weekends and a couple of offbeat stuffed animals, including a “sidehill” salmon.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition