Alice volunteered at the White Elephant resale shop. She played the accordion. And she hosted a polka music show at KCAW. After Alice died last September, a group of community members — some longtime friends, some just longtime fans — started putting together plans to build a bike shelter in her memory.
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And to help raise the money for it, they held the Alice Machesney Triathlon on Saturday morning. From there it was on to the boats to row around a buoy in Sitka Channel. Then contestants ran back up the ramp and to their bicycles, which they pedaled through an obstacle course that consisted of hula-hooping, hitting a paddle ball three times, walking the bike across a tiny little bridge and — wait for it — peeling a hard-boiled egg while simultaneously blowing a bubble with bubblegum.
“I had to chew that huge glob of bubble gum until the sugar was gone so I could blow a bubble,” said Phyllis Hackett, a member of Sitka’s Assembly. “My jaws are killing me.”
Costumes were encouraged, and ranged from tutus and striped tights and mad-hatter caps all the way to Brian Hamilton’s full-fledged Alice Machesney get-up — brown pants, polyester shirt, wig, and even a pretty good imitation of Alice’s smile.
“I just sat next to a mirror and I mastered it,” Hamilton said. “It’s a nice muscle-y grin, high eyebrows. It’s just a very natural smile.”
Hamilton was among 28 people participating in the triathlon. Entry fees, plus money from a donation jar and T-shirt sales raised more than $1,000.
Linda Olson is one of the race coordinators. She says the triathlon got them very close to the $1,200 needed to finish the bike shelter project.
“She was a phenomenal woman, and really such an icon in Sitka,” Olson said. “I don’t think there’s probably anybody who’s ever lived here who wouldn’t know who you’re talking about.”
Alice’s daughter, Annette Blankenship, says the triathlon was a great way to bring the community together, and an incredible tribute to her mother.
“And the family will love it,” Blankenship said. “I got them all T-shirts. They are just in awe from the east coast across to the west, because they all know this is happening today. It’s very special.”
Awards were given out at the end. Brian Hamilton, with the Alice smile, won second place and took home a trophy made of a table lamp with a bike seat mounted on top. Holly DeLand took top honors, claiming a trophy with a big wooden oar attached. And everyone, whether they entered the triathlon or not, took home a smile, which might just be the best Alice tribute of all.