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Celebrate independence, Seward-style

Maia Nolan-Partnow

The Seward City News just posted this year's schedule of Independence Day events, so this seems like as good a time as any to mention that you haven't really lived until you've spent a Fourth of July in Seward. As much as I love Anchorage's festivities on the Park Strip, you've got to hand it to Seward -- they know what they're doing down there. The Resurrection Bay town throws one of the state's best community celebrations each year, built around the annual Mount Marathon race, which commemorates a legendary wager. According to Seward.com:

...two sourdoughs had an argument about whether it was possible to climb and descend the mountain in less than one hour.

"Impossible" one said, and to settle the argument and the resulting wager it was decided to hold a race with the loser to furnish drinks for the crowd.

At the same time, enterprising merchants put up a suit of clothes and other attractions for the winner and proposed the race take place on a holiday -- why not the 4th of July?

The optimistic sourdough lost his bet. The winning racer took one hour and two minutes.

The race isn't for the faint of heart. "General tips" provided to would-be runners include advice that "may limit their risk of bodily injury," such as "Assistance is not guaranteed once you leave the race start. Be prepared to get yourself down the mountain, even if injured" and "Protective gear, such as helmets, gloves, goggles, knee and elbow pads is recommended."

It's too late to register for this year's race even if you happen to be insane enough to want to spend a national holiday charging up a mountain and then sliding down in a river of shale, blood and mud, but in my experience, those who come to watch the race seem to be having as much fun as (or more fun than) those who actually run it. (Bring your binoculars to keep an eye on the mountain.) There are food and vendor booths, a parade, fireworks, patriotic presentations -- all the Fourth of July stuff you might expect in any American town. Check out the full schedule and a complete list of food booths at SewardCityNews.com. (The schedule looks short and spare, but don't be fooled by its brevity. Seward on the Fourth is a spectacle.)

Contact Maia Nolan at maia(at)alaskadispatch.com.