A young girl with an umbrella watches the Sitka Fire Department’s annual “Water Fight” during Sitka’s 2016 Fourth of July activities (Photo KCAW/Katherine Rose, July 2016).

The Fourth of July is less than a month away, and communities all over Alaska are grappling with how to celebrate without drawing large crowds. Concerns around social distancing and the spread of COVID-19 mean that many are forgoing their normal events and getting creative.

Sitka won’t host a traditional parade this year. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rachel Roy said they sent out a survey to members and local businesses to gauge interest.

“And we had a pretty overwhelming response that they would not be able to participate. We had about 10 percent of the folks that responded said that they would be in the parade,” she said. “So that was one of the factors.”

Roy said the parade usually draws anywhere from two to 4000 people. In a crowd that large, packed mostly on Lincoln Street, it’s hard to socially distance. So, they’re trying  something different. It’s called  “Share Your Spark.”

“We are encouraging residents and businesses to decorate their storefronts in red, white and blue and flags to commemorate independence day,” Roy said.

The Chamber will host a contest, and they’re encouraging participants to buy decorations locally. Also, they’re asking Sitkans to use the day to give something back to the community.

“Even imagine planting a tree or helping your neighbor by mowing their lawn. There’s so many ways that we can get together as a community and support each other,” she said.

Roy said they’ll release more information about other Fourth of July events in the coming weeks. The Chamber of Commerce has resources available for businesses that want to host an event to help them follow CDC guidelines.

“We’ll keep updating the community with all the Fourth of July happenings,” Roy said. “We just really hope everyone has a safe Fourth of July.”