By Hannah Lindoff
The theme of this year’s Celebration, Sealaska Heritage’s bi-annual dance and culture festival held June 7-9 at Centennial Hall, is “Strengthen Yourself.” From today until June 7th the theme for many throughout Southeast is “Prepare Yourself.”
This is the first year that I have joined the frantic preparations for Celebration. My daughter Marigold and her dad are Tlingit and Haida. I have been taking Marigold to two dance group practice sessions and observing the preparations. I will be pleasantly surprised if Marigold actually makes it up on stage when the time comes, but I like to take her to practice because we both enjoy watching the dancers and listening to the songs.
At the children’s dance group the parents furiously sew on their button blankets, cut patterns and discuss designs. At the adult dance group the regalia is being perfected; many are working away at intricate beading in-between songs. But even those whose regalia is already complete will take it out and go over it to fix any loose buttons and beads before Celebration.
I have been very lucky so far in my regalia preparations because, while I lack talent for sewing and beading, I am well versed in the art of asking for help. I have had three exceptional beaders produce designs for Marigold and I am putting my mom to work on her tunic.
I also consider myself lucky because a friend of mine, Sarah Dybdahl is doing so much more for Celebration. Sarah is the Program and Events Manager for the Sealaska Heritage Institute and has been working hard on Celebration since December of 2011. According to Sarah, planning starts as soon as the previous Celebration ends, and they really get busy about six months out. But not only is Sarah coordinating the three day, morning to night event, she also has two boys, three and six, who are learning to dance and have outgrown their regalia.
“They need everything: tunics, moccasins, headbands. I’ll probably be working on it up until the last minute.” She told me. Thankfully, Sarah’s older daughter has been able to help on creating her own regalia. Most impressive of all, in the midst of the coordination and behind the scenes work she’ll be doing at the event, Sarah plans to get up and dance with her hometown dance group. I asked her if she had any more work to do on her own regalia. “No, that is done!” She stated definitively.
In addition to the parade and dance performances which will take place in Centennial Hall, there will also be an Oyster Festival taking place this year at the Walter Sobeloff Center future site. This is the park across the street from the Sealaska parking lot downtown, formerly known to many as “The Pit.”
The oyster festival will last throughout the three days of Celebration, June 7-9. At the festival locals, tourists and Celebration participants will be able to try oysters from all over Alaska including three brand new Yakutat oyster farms. This will be the Yakutat oysters’ debut into the market place, as this is the oyster farm’s first crop. The oysters will be served in the half shell and grilled. In addition, special events will take place such as a recipe contest between local establishments, a shucking contest, and dancers will perform on the hour. An artist’s market will take place in conjunction with the oyster festival, also in the Walter Sobeloff Center future site.
Another great addition to Celebration this year will be artist demos. These will take place at the JACC, across the street from Centennial Hall. Admissions to the dances will be available by the day or in a three day pass, both of which can be purchased at the door. Alternatively, volunteers who give four hours or more of their time will be given a free one day pass. Information on volunteering and the entire events list for Celebration will be available online at the Sealaska Heritage website at http://www.sealaskaheritage.org/celebration/. And after the long hours I’ve put in watching other people bead and sew, I personally cannot wait for Celebration to begin!
Hannah Lindoff grew up in Juneau and returned to the community after graduating college. She now lives with her husband Anthony, daughter Marigold and dog Haagu on Mountainside. Hannah can be reached at email@example.com