Juneau Fourth of July parade planner forges ahead with or without permit

The color guard marches past City Hall during the downtown Juneau Fourth of July parade in 2013. (Photo by Greg Culley)

The pandemic has put a damper on most of Juneau’s usual July Fourth festivities, but one resident is still hoping for a parade. 

Ray Rusaw got the idea to organize a short parade in the Mendenhall Valley after the city’s downtown event was canceled in response to COVID-19. 

His son is an Iraq War veteran, and Rusaw has always participated in past parades with different community groups. 

“Everything about the Fourth of July is important to me,” Rusaw said on Friday. “It is the one time of the year where it’s nice and warm and all the people get out of the house and they truly all cheer the same thing and, and they’re all cheering America.”

Rusaw planned to have participants stage cars and floats in the Nugget Mall parking lot, where the parade will begin and end. He reached out to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter and printed up flyers to advertise. 

But Rusaw said he must have misunderstood the Juneau Police Department when he originally reached out about his plans. At the time, he didn’t think he needed a permit. 

But as it turns out, he does. Police Lt. Krag Campbell told Rusaw last week the city will not issue him a parade permit.  

“In absence of (a) parade permit, what somebody could do though is they could have a line of vehicles that are … decorated, so long as they’re vehicles that are allowed to be on the roadway and they can just drive their normal route and just by obeying all the traffic laws,” Campbell said. 

Campbell said  anyone operating an unlicensed vehicle or walking in the road during the parade could be issued a citation.

Rusaw had hoped that people would be able to drive four wheelers or ride bikes in the parade, and planned to walk the route himself. He’s encouraging anyone worried about social distancing to watch from their cars along the parade route, or even drive along. 

He sent a letter to the Juneau Assembly asking that the city reconsider granting him a permit. 

“If you’re free enough to walk out there and go to Home Depot, then you should be free enough to actually walk in a parade,” Rusaw said. 

Rusaw said he’s heard from many community members who want to participate in Saturday’s parade. He hopes they can do so without risking a citation. 

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