Saturday, May 28, 2011

Annual King Crab Festival – Kodiak Style




Today we awoke to two nice surprises. First, today was the first day in the last 14 days that the city of Kodiak, Alaska had not had rain. In fact, the clouds opened to produce a stunningly beautiful day. Kodiak, AlaskaSecond, today just happened to be the Annual King Crab Festival; a good old fashioned, small town American celebration; complete with kids marching, bands blaring, and a host of events to entertain.

Owing to the events, our ship had to anchor quite a ways from the harbor because the highlight of the festivities was a fly-by of local Coast Guard aircraft, followed by a rescue competition by teams of EMS and Coast Guard personnel with the local harbor the focus of these events. For this reason, we were hustled off the ship rather early because the last ferry back onboard would be at noon. After that we would be stuck on shore until ferry service could resume at 2pm.

Kodiak is home to the largest Coast Guard Station in America; home to over 2,500 personnel. The city is also home to some 700 fishing vessels and an overall population of around 15,000 people. Unlike the ports which line the West Coast of Alaska, this part of the State is visited by comparatively few cruise ships. This year they have only 14 visits scheduled, which is just fine by the locals. I do not mean by this that they were unfriendly, in fact, quite the opposite. I felt that people went out of their way to be warm and open. But, Kodiak is a working town and not a tourist town.

Our tour bus turned out to be one of the city school buses. I can’t remember the last time I was on a school bus, but for certain the seats were not built for someone my size. Because of the town parade, the bus had to make many detours on its way to our first stop, Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park.

Kodiak, Alaska

This Park incorporates a portion of the old World War II defense positions, and so it is full of bunkers and old gun emplacements. The visitor center is housed in an underground bunker that was so cold inside that I felt as if I was in a meat locker. Built atop a commanding hilltop to the approaches to Kodiak, it offered stunning vistas. Some in our tour saw whales, but sadly Lisa and I did not. The tour did encounter one Bald Eagle sitting on a lamp post, but in traffic he was quickly left behind and we got no photographs.

Our next stop was at the Alaska Fisheries Research Center, where they had a small tank of specimens indigenous to the local area, and they also had a large touch pond, where the adventurous visitor could actually touch the specimens.Kodiak, Alaska I was more interested in going outside the back where there were some really good pictures of the surrounding waters and a float plane airport.

From here our bus again took a roundabout route to the Alutiiq Museum of Native Culture. Once again, Lisa and I were less interested in yet another museum, but were a great deal more interested in the beautiful Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church across the street. Kodiak, AlaskaAnd so, we wandered over and were greeted pleasantly by some workers in the yard, who made it clear that we were welcome to enter. Doing so, we found the local priest sitting alone in the interior deeply involved in reading his books. He welcomed us also, and then moved to the back of the church and invited us to take pictures.Kodiak, Alaska He and Lisa got into an involved discussion and in the process, we learned that the church dates to the 1870’s and today has a congregation of around 100 people.

Once again, we crawled back onto the bus and set off for yet another museum, always mindful that we must complete our tour by noon or be stuck for 2 hours ashore. The next museum turned out to be just blocks away from the pier, which by then had become a beehive of activity for the Festival. We begged off the museum tour and walked to the pier, where a good old fashioned carnival was in full swing.Kodiak, Alaska Rides had been set up for the kids, you could toss rings, try your hand at tossing a basketball, or any of the usual carnival events. Then there was the food – which is what I honestly think most people came for. There were hugs bins of King Crab, which were being scooped up and tossed into vats of boiling water, with a long line of people waiting to buy the finished product. Cotton candy, ice cream and let’s not forget root beer floats, which is what caught Lisa’s eye.

Grabbing some great photographs of the harbor, we made the noon tender and proceeded back to the ship. While on the way, the Coast Guard began its fly-by-event, and from the tender, I was able to grab a few interesting shots for the day’s collection.

Kodiak, Alaska

Anyway, we are just now departing Kodiak and will arrive into Homer, AK tomorrow. I do hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend, and our shared journey.


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