On January 3, 1959, Alaska became the 49th state. Tonight I joined Alaskans in Anchorage for the fireworks commemorating that day, 50 years ago. There was free music at three venues for those who arrived earlier. Jon and I arrived after work and walked several blocks from the car to get to Town Square Park, the park with the ice sculptures.
We strolled around to keep warm. Recognized bits of faces peering between the bottoms of hats and the tops of scarves. We didn't have a thermometer but it was hovering around minus 10F. Yet hundreds of people from toddlers to Sourdoughs were there in the park, bundled against the cold and the ice fog hanging in the air, falling from the air, covering trees in glittering white.
We weren't sure where the display would be launched. Then it started. To the east. To the south. To the north. I wasn't sure which way to look as the bright lights shot up, lighting the sky and the small park below. The lights reflected on buildings. Explosions echoed across the streets.
I started laughing. Other people around me, adults like me, they were laughing too and shouting, clapping. Maybe it was because it was so colorful in our otherwise monochromatic winter. Maybe it was because we were standing together out in the cold watching something most people in the country reserve for the time of year when they can sit on the grass or in a lawn chair enjoying a cold beverage. But that's not Alaska.
Here, the winter fireworks are better than any held in the summer for the simple fact that it doesn't get dark at night when it's warm out. Maybe that would explain why I haven't made it a point to enjoy a professional fireworks display since I left Wisconsin.
For some reason, though, I wanted to be there tonight. Maybe, like so many other people, I want to be a part of something. We want to be Alaskans. Which for me meant standing in the cold and singing only loud enough for Jon to hear:
"Eight stars of gold on a field of blue
Alaska's flag, may it mean to you..."
as the display wrapped up.
I love that we have a state song that reflects the place where we live. It still sums up the essence of our natural world and why it's a good place to live for people who like to be outdoors or who can appreciate the view outside their windows. And it was running through my mind as the display ended, reminding me once again why I live here. It's not because of the fireworks, they were just the reminder.