Long, drawn out days the perfect time to celebrate sunshine
The longer I live in Alaska, the more convinced I become that we’re all solar-powered – that goes double for outdoorsy types. Here in Southcentral we come in at just under 19.5 hours of daylight on summer solstice, plus a little twilight time built in around the edges.
That’s plenty of time for a rousing outdoor solstice celebration, followed by some indoor fun. Or better yet, stay out overnight on our longest daylight stretch of the year – both sunrise and sunset on Thursday, June 20, and Friday, June 21, are identical: 4:20 a.m. and 11:42 p.m. each day. (Technically speaking, June 20 will be longer, but only by a whopping two seconds.) Here’s an overview of what’s happening:
The Ritual Trek
Flattop is easily the most popular destination for a midnight hike on summer solstice. There’s something to be said for safety in numbers when you’re hiking at night, even if it’s the shortest night of the year.
If you’d rather not heft a backpack or hike with the masses, check out a new campground instead. The ever-popular Bird Creek Campground is still being renovated (possibly to re-open in August), so check out such easy-to-reach spots as Eagle River Campground (dnr.alaska.gov/parks/aspunits/chugach/eaglerivercamp.htm) or Eklutna Lake (dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/chugach/eklutna.htm). Pick up a $1 statewide campground map at the Public Lands Information Center, 605 W. Fourth Ave., and create your own adventure.
Outdoors in town
If you don’t want to go too far afield, you can enjoy the gentler side of fresh air with a free performance by the Tomodachi Daiko Taiko Drummers on the lawn from noon to 1 p.m. June 20 at Loussac Library. At 7 on the same evening, you can get your outdoors fix indoors as author and photographer Tom Walker discusses his book, “The Seventymile Kid: The Lost Legacy of Karstens and the First Ascent of Mount McKinley,” in the Wilda Marston Theatre.
The library and Anchorage Parks & Recreation hosts an all-ages beach party, 1-3 p.m. June 21 at Goose Lake. Bring your beach towels and beach toys if you have them – and don’t forget the Super Soaker! There’ll also be volleyball, Frisbee, and a sand-castle building contest.
The longtime beer, pizza and party masters at the Moose’s Tooth are bringing Primus up for its 2013 Summer Solstice celebration. Doors open at 6 p.m., Saturday, June 22; the opening band plays at 7 p.m. and Primus goes on at 8 p.m. You must be 21 or older. Tickets are $40 each and will no doubt sell out. Look for live music at Humpy’s, too, although bands hadn’t been confirmed as of press time.
If you’re looking for more all-ages entertainment, your paid admission to the Alaska Zoo on Saturday, June 22, doubles as admission to its annual Zoolstice celebration, with live music, games, animal presentations and something called “animal enrichment.” If you’re as confused about that last phrase as I was, Eileen Floyd, development director for the zoo, explains: “It’s a win-win. They get a treat, you watch them play with their treat.”
Rounding out the all-ages theme, the Anchorage Museum offers a week full of hands-on, solstice-related activities for all ages from June 15-21. View the sun through a solar telescope, catch a free planetarium demo about the sun, and more – all included in the price of admission. (www.anchoragemuseum.org/)
Take over the town
Last but certainly not least, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership once again hosts the Downtown Summer Solstice Festival and Hero Games. It starts Saturday, June 22, on Fourth Avenue between C and L streets. Look for community performances throughout the day, including a Teen Pro Skateboarding demonstration and the Children’s Rainbow Factory, which will include puppet shows, a kayak pool, a giant sandbox and more.
The event runs from noon to 6 p.m., but I usually get sucked in by the Hero Games, from noon to 3 p.m. in the center of the festival strip. There’s something about watching Alaska’s first responders (Army, Air Force, police and fire departments) battle it out for bragging rights in rope pulls, obstacle courses, bucket brigades and various relays that makes it feel like a reality TV show. But they’re right there in person, so your favorites can actually hear you as you scream your head off to root them on.
The only thing that’s missing is a chance for community members to sign up and try the same events – I bet they’re a lot harder than the heroes of the Hero Games make them look.