A live concert series, two hour wait times at restaurants, lines around the block for the local ice-cream shop, and tourists: Anchorage is back, baby!
At least that’s what it felt like closing out the first week of June, as Downtown Anchorage came alive to celebrate the summer season.
Here’s how a few people experienced a sunny ‘First Friday’ in Anchorage.
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“Right after we formed, the pandemic hit and we had just had about two or three shows before it all went down,” said Lisa Hawkins, a founder and performer with the Pipeline Vocal Project in Anchorage.
“We’ve done virtual gigs and kind of talking to people, but it’s really, really weird performing to an audience you can’t hear. You can’t really get their energy, you can’t hear their claps, and to be able to have that in person interaction has been just, ‘Oh, yeah, this is what it’s like.’ It’s been really, oh my gosh, a relief if nothing else,” Hawkins said.
“This was my first concert out here. Because I moved to Anchorage just a few months before the pandemic started so I didn’t really get to enjoy the outdoors,” said Harry Kamdem. “But I’ve heard about it. I heard this happens every first Friday. It’s my first time experiencing it, and I’m loving it.”
“You don’t really miss it initially, because things just are what they are,” said local artist and professor Mariano Gonzales at his first in-person art show since the pandemic began. “But then, after an interval where you’re basically sequestered in your studio and other places, to come out? Wow. It’s like several breaths of fresh air. Or at least it smells fresh. Who knows, it could be contaminated.”
“We’re very excited. All of us without masks, are vaxxed, double vaxxed, so we can do little side hugs, we can do a little hand touching. And it’s so wonderful,” said Linda Lucky at the first ‘First Friday’ art show at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage since the pandemic began. “I was just at the (Anchorge) Museum, and the lawn has all the musicians and people hanging out and walking around and you can’t believe the people’s smiles. Everybody’s so happy. And the weather, of course is magnificent. And it’s beautiful Alaska, so we’ve got it all.”
“There’s a lot of people here, and being here right now I’m almost as intrigued with seeing people in groups indoors as I am with the art on the walls,” said Matthew Lohr while at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage. “It feels good. It kind of feels like … there’s glimpses where it’s kind of like it’s pre-COVID.”
“We heard about the music festival and it was nice day to head downtown as well,” said Kevin who brought his children, Ace and Cali, to the a live show in the park. “It’s so nice for the kids to be out,” said Kat.
“We’re not from here. We’re from North Carolina. So it’s very different here than it is there,” said Lydia Lewis and Sara Silika as they waited in a line for Wild Scoops ice cream that stretched down the block. “It’s amazing to be out here again. This is the first big trip since everything (happened). So it’s really nice to go somewhere. Finally.”
“There’s two bands playing. I don’t know the last time I heard real live music and now there’s two and it’s crazy!” said Megan Mcilmail.
“We’re in the First Friday sweet spot,” said Makana Bender.
“I missed this so much,” said Lena Gonzales. “I was thinking about the last time we were in Town Square. And it was so long ago, like two years ago. And it just it feels like a lifetime ago. Just seeing everybody out and seeing people’s faces is weird. I’m so used to seeing the upper half of somebody’s face. Now, it’s like ‘What are you doing with your mouth out?'”
“It’s a liberating feeling,” said Bender. “It used to be so usual and now, it’s so special. We earned our ability to come back out safely.”
“This is like double summer,” said Mcilmail.
“This is summer squared. Extra summer!” said Bender.
“It feels so good to be out,” said Gonzales.
Alaska Public Media’s Jeff Chen contributed to this report.