Ester parade shows independent streak

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2003

ESTER (AP) It's not your garden variety Fourth of July parade here in this small and outspoken hamlet. Indeed, social and political commentary is easier to find than an American flag.

Hundreds gathered on Friday to watch the notoriously tongue-in-cheek Independence Day parade pass through the community of 1,850 people.

Among at least 60 entrants were human puppets, old trucks and peace activists. One parade entrant dressed as President Bush, tossing Payday bars to spectators and shouting, ''Who is wealthy and needs a tax break?''

Another entrant mixed a parody of Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Hans Christian Anderson story ''The Emperor's New Clothes'' by donning only underwear and shouting ''I have a plan.''

Still another wore a bathrobe, a turban and carried a sign that read ''embedded reporter.''

''The Fourth of July is always the biggest event of the year in Ester,'' said Jeff Rogers, one of its organizers. ''The parade is always eclectic. The only rule is helmets for the kids on bikes.''

Some of the children on bikes threw candy and firefighters in a lime-green Alaska Division of Forestry truck threw tiny flying discs and water bottles. One parade entrant threw radishes.

''It was hilarious,'' said Ester resident Jody Hassel, summing up the 30-minute spectacle which was followed by a pot luck cookout on the soccer field behind the Ester Volunteer Fire Department.

Local estimates differ on how long the Ester Independence Day parade has been held. Rogers guessed it's at least 20 years old, while others say its 15 years, or 13 years, or even less.

Ruth Knapman, of Fairbanks, watched the parade for the first time. She was disappointed there weren't more flags and a military color guard, but she liked what she saw.

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