By Heidi Zemach for SCN
The new Seward Library Museum building filled with people remembering and celebrating the city’s storied history Wednesday, August 28, 2013, in honor of Seward’s 110th Founder’s Day. The crowd included more than a handful of Alaska and Seward pioneers, officials and visiting dignitaries from Seward’s sister-city, Obihiro, Japan. The event was sponsored by the Resurrection Bay Historical Society and the City of Seward. A couple dozen small children from TYC arrived later to perform “The Alaska Flag Song.” Beautiful porcelain dolls, past gifts from Obihiro, performing various traditional Japanese tasks, sparkled in brightly lit display cases in the foyer. Speaker of the Alaska Senate Mike Chenault, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, Seward City Mayor David Seaward, and the Mayor of Obihiro and its city council president were there.
Unlike former Founder’s Days, it wasn’t in the old familiar museum below the Senior Center on Third Avenue. The hors d’oeuvres, punch and coffee weren’t served in the museum itself while community members mingled and elders gathered informally around the old wooden table, sharing stories and eating favorite homegrown recipes such as salmon dips, cookies and cakes.
Rather, the reception was held in the Community Room, and catered dishes much fancier than in previous years were offered including bacon-wrapped scallops, mango salsa, and coconut-breaded shrimp.
Two hours of speeches and gift exchanges followed. A slide-show of historical Seward photographs underscored the speaker’s comments.
Historical Society President Willard Dunham talked about how far the city had come in the past 110 years, and the progress made, including the new building. He had the pioneers present stand to be acknowledged.
Mayor Seaward read the Founder’s Day Proclamation.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Representative Sue McClure gave a short history of L.V. Ray, an attorney and three-time Seward mayor who helped shape the foundation of Seward. Retired Clerk Jean Lewis will bring their special recognition to his remaining family.
Seward Pioneer President Virgil Campbell, and Kim Kowalski-Rogers unveiled the Territorial Flag, presented to the Resurrection Bay Historical Society for 100th Year Anniversary of Seward Pioneers Igloo #9.
“Most people think the pioneers are a bunch of old relics,” joked Campbell. We may be that too, he said, but explained that their mission is actually to collect old relics for future generations to enjoy.
Phyllis Shoemaker, speaking for the Seward International Friendship Association, SIFA, gave a brief history of the cultural exchanges with our sister-city since 1973. In that year Seward donated three live Alaskan moose to Obihiro, one of which went to the zoo which a group of local muralists will help paint a mural for next month, in Japan. Seward sent a band and choir to perform there in ’82, and in ’92, it sent a delegation to help Obihiro celebrate its 100th Anniversary.
Obihiro Mayor Norihisa Yonezawa recounted the “loving relationship” and “strong bonds” that his city has enjoyed with Seward, and expressed his deep gratitude for the people here. The mayor said he hopes to build on those ties in the future, for the mutual benefit of both cities.
Visiting for the first time, Yonezawa was impressed by the extent of “wonderful nature” in the area, and the “strong industry.” Mostly, he was impressed by Seward’s ability to continue undiscouraged by the hardships of its Alaska pioneer days, and then survive the devastating earthquakes, tsunamis and floods. Japan is still feeling the destructive effects of its own great earthquake and Tsunami that occurred just three years ago, and is in the reconstruction phase, so can empathize with Seward, he said.
The City of Seward, through its mayor, presented the Obihiro delegation with a handsome carved antler sculpture by Doug McRae. Not to be outdone, the visitors dressed Mayor Seaward in a beautiful ceremonial kimono, and presented him with an equally elegant two-sided fan, with cranes painted on it.
Alaska Railroad Corporation employee Christy Terry gave a brief history of the railroad upon which Seward was built. “ARRC is still a vital economic engine for the State of Alaska and for Seward,” she concluded. She also gave a history of Benny Benson and the Alaska Flag he created as a child staying at the Jesse Lee Home.
Then TYC students filed in to sing “The Alaska Flag Song,” accompanied by Jennifer Carr. They were delighted to hear there would be cake afterwards: two magnificent cakes, one proclaiming the founder’s day anniversary, the other patterned after the Alaska flag they had been singing about.