Tenakee doesn’t take Independence Day too seriously, and that’s a plus. Its celebration is a slapdash affair, long on homemade humor and short on pomp. Jump into its games and contests and you’ll earn the affection of locals.
You can meet almost everyone in town, plus some visitors and commercial fisherman by showing up in Tenakee on the Fourth of July.
It’s an all-day celebration of tasty food and quirky games, featuring kids, dogs, floats, flags...and slugs. It begins with a parade of people walking and riding bikes and four-wheelers along Tenakee Avenue, beginning at the fire hall.
Parade entrants include kids riding their bikes, a variety of “floats” made from John Deere utility vehicles, the town fire truck, and usually at least one marching band. (In Tenakee, that means three friends broke out the old flute, banjo and accordion, playing loudly while walking down the gravel parade route.)
An afternoon potluck picnic is typically a seafood feast, with commercial fisherman supplying crabs, halibut and barbecued salmon and more. It’s a treat for visitors. The locals - who eat seafood all year long - will typically be the folks eating burgers!
The quirky charm of Tenakee continues, as kids and adults compete for prizes in events ranging from foot races to a lemon pass. A “sweet tooth” contest attracts delicious home-made baked goods and if that’s not enough sugar, a piñata full of candy is beaten aggressively by the younger set too.
Meanwhile, “big kids” pay for the privilege of participating in a “slug slinging” contest - a fundraiser that helps with upkeep of the community bathhouse. Each slug costs $1 and is thrown as far as the contestant can sling it. Southeastern Alaska slugs are big - and slimy - so anyone trying this is encouraged to use that community bath once the fun crawls to an end! Fireworks get blasted off the deck of a barge anchored offshore.
If you plan your trip starting on the Fourth of July, you’ll know a lot of people’s names around town for the rest of your stay.