Greased Poles and other July Fourth Fun

The last post showed a bit about the tiny town of Pelican, and the July Fourth parade. After the parade everyone met down by the school for a community cookout. The town provided burgers and hot dogs on the grill and everyone brought a side dish or a dessert.

Between the normal summer residents and their visiting guests, fish processing plant workers and some visiting boaters like us there were almost 200 people!

They had lots of games – a big pile of sawdust where coins were hidden for the little ones to find, wheelbarrow races, an egg toss, and foot races – all divided up into age groups. They even had the “over 65” group!

Over 65 foot race

Our faces hurt from smiling and laughing so much… but there was more fun to come. People started heading over to the harbor for the “anything floats” races. In the meantime many of the kids and teens jumped in the water to swim and cool off – despite the fact that the water is about 50 degrees!

There weren’t too many entries in the “anything floats races”, but enough to keep us entertained especially with windy conditions near the starting point.

The bear on the float above is a nod to the very high population of brown bears on Chichagof Island, and to the number of them near town. A week before our visit, the town safety officer (VPSO) had to shoot a bear that kept breaking into the kitchen of a fishing lodge. People are very careful about trash to keep from attracting bears, but sometimes a bear will lose its fear of humans and become a problem.

Back to the festivities – the highlight of the day was the Greased Pole Competition. It starts with a tapered, smoothed log that’s strapped to the dock, suspended over the water. They place a small American flag near the end, and the object is to slide out the pole and grab the flag.

But the pole is kept greased up with Crisco…

…and it’s pretty flexible, so body weight will make you accelerate as you get towards the tip. Meanwhile, the spectators contribute money to the prize pot, and the longer the contest goes on, the bigger the the pot gets. Here’s a very short video to show how it all works (or, in this case, doesn’t!)

ALMOST! (But no…)

After about an hour of many people making multiple attempts (and some big bruises)… this guy finally succeeded and won the $1300 prize pot!


It was a fantastic day – we loved all the old-fashioned fun. We stayed around an extra day or two to visit friends and do some chores, then headed back out to explore more of the outer coast.

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