History of the Festival
Formed in 1954 as a non-profit, Alaska Day Festival, Inc. annually commemorates the transfer of Russian America (Russia's claim of Alaska) to the United States of America at Sitka on October 18, 1867, as well as celebrates the diversity of cultures and historical perspective of our people.
We are dedicated not only to the annual remembrance of Alaska Day, but also we strive to inspire a deeper exploration into the cultures and history of the mid 1800s. We aim to stimulate the imaginations of our current generation, and to look beyond our own histories to better appreciate the experiences of others.
The first recorded celebration of Alaska Day was in 1949. The highlight of the event was unveiling "The Prospector," a 2-ton bronze statue molded by sculptor Alonzo Victor Lewis. The statue is in the image of William "Skagway Will" Fonda and sits front and center of the Sitka Pioneers' Home as a tribute to Alaska's pioneers.
On Alaska Day itself, October 18th, many dignitaries and representative groups from all branches of the Armed Forces join in a memorial service at the Sitka National Cemetery and in the parade through downtown. School bands, local organizations, and even politicians join in the route as well, which ends near Castle Hill, where following the parade a re-enactment of the 1867 ceremony takes place.
What was once a simple local celebration has rapidly grown into a widely renowned occasion that attracts more and more guests from not only around Alaska, but from beyond as well.
The festival typically spans about a week, give or take a day and includes a variety of events including live world class music, a period costume ball, and a variety show of local performers.
Many local and visiting performers get involved in the festivities including the Gaaja Heen dancers, the New Archangel Dancers, the U.S. Army Band, and the Seattle Fire Pipes & Drums.