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Celebration of Alaska Day in Juneau is spreading throughout the month, in an effort by local storyteller and history enthusiast John Venables.
Juneau's Alaska Day grows out of passion 101012 NEWS 2 Capital City Weekly Celebration of Alaska Day in Juneau is spreading throughout the month, in an effort by local storyteller and history enthusiast John Venables.

Photo By Sarah Day / Capital City Weekly

William Henry Seward (John Venables) announces on Oct. 2 "Let the games being," kicking off Alaska Day events in Juneau.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Story last updated at 10/10/2012 - 12:48 pm

Juneau's Alaska Day grows out of passion

Celebration of Alaska Day in Juneau is spreading throughout the month, in an effort by local storyteller and history enthusiast John Venables.

Events started earlier this month with a bowling tournament between William Henry Seward (Venables) and local bowler Charlie Lewis - who recently bowled a 300.

"I don't know how I'm going to beat him," Venables said at the event registration.

Seward kicked off the month of Alaska Day recognition at Taku Lanes in Juneau.

"It is 1860, October the 2nd," Seward said, clad in a dapper suit and top hat. "We are starting the celebration of Alaska Day... with a proper kick off of this great event, which I expect to be comparable to the London Olympics."

He announced the bowling tournament, and his emcee Jim Becker passed him a torch.

"Let the games begin," Seward said, holding up the torch.

And so they have. Also earlier this month were 3-hole golf games at the Nugget Mall, with William Egan (Venables) presiding over the event.

Yet to come is a Pioneers of Alaska period costume contest, with music, student coloring and essay contests at Nugget Mall from 2-5 p.m. on Oct. 13.

• Alaska Day breakfast at the Senior Center from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 18.

• Juneau Chamber of Commerce After Hours event from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Wilcox Museum on Oct. 19.

• E.L. "Bob" Bartlett Alaska Day, with a Red Rose music concert at noon at the Nugget Mall. on Oct. 20.

• Ernest Gruening Alaska Day awards ceremony at the Moose Lodge from 1-3 p.m. on Oct. 27.

"We're doing wonderful," Venables said. "We're kicking off the campaign and many wonderful things are happening. Basically our interest is to celebrate Alaska Day every day of the month."

Venables is the story teller for Alaska Living History, in which he promotes Alaska history and embodies William Henry Seward, James Wickersham or E.L. "Bob" Bartlett.

"Alaska Day is one of two state holidays," Venables said. "I don't think 90 percent of the people could name the two holidays."

The other is on the fourth Monday in March - Seward's Day.

Venables typically hosts some kind of event on that day as well.

He's particularly thrilled with the Chamber's afterhours event at the Wilcox Museum.

"This guy has been collecting stuff fro 30-40 years," Venables said. "He has the most extensive collection I have ever seen."

Alaska Day, for Venables, is about promoting history.

"I am an educator, so I am bringing to the attention the Alaska state history, culture and my education programs," he said. "Just having these special events is going to bring awareness. ...I also emphasize Alaska Days of Honor. One of the most prominently remembered is Elizabeth Peratrovich Day. There are days, as far as the legislature is concerned, that are equal - Wickersham Day, Ernest Gruening Day, Anthony Dimond Day."

There's also a day for William Egan - Oct. 8, the day Venables hosted his bowling tournament.

Venables considers it a passion to promote awareness of these days of honor.

"I started doing this in 2006 at the Haines Library," Venables said. "I was invited to give some presentation at an afterschool children's program."

He'll also be going on a book tour soon for his book, "Journey to Statehood: Alaska Becomes our 49th State." Proceeds go toward Venables' education programs.

But, at age 73, Venables will have an eye out for who will carry on the traditions of old.

"I plan on doing this at least two years," he said. "I'm looking for who my successor might be. You need to have two ingredients: you must have extreme passion for the material. If you can't demonstrate that, you will never make an impact. The second is if you're not a little crazy, you'll never be successful."

Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at sarah.day@capweek.com.


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