As many Alaska cities cancelled official Fourth of July events to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Unalaska was one of few communities who gathered for a city-sponsored event this year.
And while some of the usual events, such as the hot dog eating contest had been cancelled, hundreds of Unalaskans—wearing face masks—lined the streets downtown on Saturday.
After so many local events and celebrations had been cancelled this summer, it came as a relief to the Unalaska community to have the chance to come together and celebrate Independence Day with a parade.
Participants were asked to maintain social distancing and wear face coverings in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but anticipation still filled the air and spectators bubbled with excitement as local Delanney McConnell started the festivities off singing the Star Spangled Banner.
For competitors on floats, this year posed an especially difficult challenge. Floats were not allowed to throw candy—which was instead handed out in sanitary, individual bags by PCR staff—and only three people were allowed on each float.
Despite the extra challenges, over 20 businesses, organizations, and individuals showed up—and they did so ready to compete.
"We looked at all the other cars and they looked like they were going to win. Because they were pretty good," said Jonah Castillo, one of the winners of the Cars, Trucks, and Machinery float category.
"God bless the U.S.A.," added Rogue Henning—the other half of the winning duo. The team attributed their win, in part, to their display of American pride.
And while they were thrilled to take first place in the category, they acknowledged the level of competition present at the event.
In fact, their success stemmed from recognizing their inability to take the prize without one another, they said.
"I was going to go on my go kart until Rogue showed me the flatbed, and I was like, I can't win, so I went with him," said Castillo.
"And I was going to ride my motorcycle, until it was broken, so I came up with the flatbed idea," added Henning.
The two decided to join forces and put the go kart on top of the flatbed—to create what they called, the "Freedom Machine." From there, they added decorations, music, American flags, and posters to celebrate Henning's older brother Trey who passed away in a tragic snowmobiling accident earlier this year.
"Best buds Jonah and Rogue worked together to create their red, white, and blue Freedom Machine to honor their country. This one's for you, Trey Henning, we love and miss you," read McConnell as Castillo and Henning passed by waving and lip syncing Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A."
While they were reluctant to share, and honestly a bit indecisive about details, Henning and Castillo said they've got big plans for next year. They said the competition this year was fierce and they understand the challenge they've got ahead of them if they want to carry on their legacy as winners.
"Ooh, we're gonna win next year. We're probably going to put in a skiff," said Castillo.
"Yeah," added Henning. "Let's tow the Lund."
"Me and Rogue will probably sit in the back," explained Castillo.
"Shooting off fireworks, maybe," exclaimed Henning.
In addition to Castillo and Henning's win, in the category of Best use of theme, "Unalaska Pride," the winner was the UCSD Graduating Class of 2020. The winner of the Best with Animal category was Juvy Cobar-Magalong. And in the category of Best of Show, the Unalaska Public Library took first place. And finally, the Judge's Favorite award went to the PCR.
To watch a full recap of the parade, tune into Channel 8 TV on Thursday at 7 p.m. Or visit KUCB's Facebook page to watch the live stream of the event.