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4th of July: Elfin Cove Style

One of the most common questions we get asked in the Cove is, “what do you guys do for the 4th of July?”

Well, we do just about what everyone else does; wake up, find some red, white, and blue, and celebrate then sleep all day the 5th. Now, the thing that makes Elfin Cove different on the Fourth of July is the whole “celebrating” part.

The 4th in the Cove is infamous and people come from all over southeast Alaska and the world to be in Elfin Cove for the Fourth. Fishing boats, smaller sport boats, house boats, anybody who knows about Elfin Cove and has a boat or a buddy with a boat comes.

The 4th of July is a full day agenda of food and uniquely Elfin Cove activities.

First thing on the agenda is the pancake breakfast, preCovid-19 anyway. Breakfast was held in the Cross Sound building and hosted by Cross Sound Lodge, in 2020 we purchased that building and now call it Mossy Ridge. The breakfast really kickstarted the festivities; nothing can be more American than eating plate sized pancakes, sausage, canned fruit and drinking orange juice and coffee while talking with friends from the Cove. Breakfast was so popular that as soon as someone stood up from eating another person would sit down in their place.

The second activity is the official start of the Elfin Coveness of the 4th. We have a parade. Our parade could be compared to a Halloween parade, imagine an elementary Halloween parade, and then add in large amounts of red, white, and blue. Everyone dresses up in their favorite costume and walks the parade route. We’ve had, princesses, mermaids, sailors, a halibut, lumber jack, Goldilocks and the three bears, and countless superheroes along with various amazing displays of red, white, and blue. The entire boardwalk swarms with dressed up kids and adults from all over while the rest of us are strung along the boardwalk standing to the sides as we yell and applaud the walking parade. The parade route and observers are all around the boardwalk, past the post office, in front of the store and ends by the playground where we say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem. I think my all-time favorite costume has been my brother Jake dressed up as a mermaid with our cousin. Besides serving as a great dose of Patriotism, the end of the parade also allows for people to sign up (or be forced) for the other events.

Next up is the carnival for kids under 12 and the Chili cook off/hot dog lunch. This is a highly sought after bragging right prize among all the lodge chef’s; who can make the best crockpot of chili? We have had some amazing chili, some burn your face off chili and some seafood chili, the last one being a very unique Alaskan taste. We won 1st prize one year and our crock pot went missing for several days, one of the local fishermen enjoyed the chili so much he took our crock home to finish the contents. Now we try to get 2nd place, so our crock pot comes home at the end of the 4th. This is a fun fundraiser for the community and keeps the kids involved as the next events are setup. Anticipation builds during lunch for the Fish Toss, Humpy Head Bobbing and the Greased Pole. Now, if you aren’t familiar with those 4th of July celebrations, allow me to educate you. 10-dollar entry fee and the winners in each event split the prize.

Fish Toss: Located on the beach in front of the post office this area is not necessarily flat or slippery moss free, but it is some of the only open ground in the Cove. People line the boardwalk above, there is barely enough room to see over the shoulders of people to watch the action down below. The rules: teams of 2 select a previously frozen slightly mushy pink salmon, the fish is tossed between the team members and after each toss one team member takes a step backward.

There are many different techniques employed to getting the fish ready to fly. Some people rub it in the dirt, others rub it on their pants to get the slime off. Regardless, the key is getting and keeping the fish dry – the less slimy the better. Next, the teams line up about 15 feet apart and start tossing the fish back and forth, each time taking a step backwards. Again, there are many different techniques for how to successfully launch a slimy, mushy, decaying pink salmon at your friend or spouse. In all my days of watching and participating in the fish toss the best technique seems to be tossing as high as possible underhand to allow the fish to be coming in slower when it reaches the other person. Overhand – usually not very good. Spinning – also very good to avoid. But if it wasn’t obvious enough, throwing the fish into the water will not result in you winning the cash or the fish swimming away. Those teams who can avoid the water, excessive spinning or tripping on the various rocks and logs on the beach can end up throwing the fish upwards of 70 feet. Back and forth the fish goes, guts spewing out and people’s knees covered in mud. The cheers of the crowd increasing in intensity as the throws get more and more precarious. Higher and higher the fish flies above the crowd until finally someone makes a mistake, and the fish comes crashing to the ground. The crowd whoops and hollers as the victors and their poor fish celebrate the win.

After the fish toss comes the event, some people can only pray to avoid. The most daring, disgusting, repulsive, and exciting Alaska has to offer. The humpy head bob. I’m sure you have heard of bobbing for apples… this is just like that, except for much cooler. First, a tub is filled with water and ice to make sure people are sufficiently cold when they put their heads into the water, this isn’t your nice little Wal-Mart kiddy pool. This tub gets grown men all the way to their bellies into the water; over 2 feet of water and ice. After the tub is filled with ice cold water, pink salmon heads get added into the water, by the way, they sink…all the way down to the bottom. The heads are gilled before they are put in the water which helps the water remain clear for at least the first 3 rounds of bobbing – after that the water turns a lovely grey and red. Without further ado, the bobbing begins










Did I mention that fish heads not only sink, but are very slippery? Yeah. Not a great time for many people. However, it is very entertaining to watch. People’s faces get redder and redder as they continue to plunge into the ice cold water in hopes of finding and catching a fish’s head in their teeth to bring to the surface, increasingly wet after each dunk.

After a few tries many people get the fishes head out of the tub… its up for debate if they are more excited to have succeeded or to be able to walk away from the challenge. Round upon round of bobbers step up to the challenge to try to win the prize… 3 paper clips are put into 3 heads to indicate the winners, grab the fish head with the paper clip and you have just won yourself about one hundred dollars and a possible ear infection! What a fun time!!

All the crew are immediately signed up for humpy head bobbing when they accept the job – just a heads-up ladies.

After the humpy-head bobbing competition, it is time for a hot shower and hydrogen peroxide poured in our ears to prevent ear infection.

Some years we have more events than others, some events are the slug race and anything but a boat race. The slug race involves everyone collecting some 3” banana slugs and putting them on a board until the winner slimes it’s way outside. Highly anticlimactic but entertaining. The anything but a boat race typically involves people grabbing whatever will float and climbing aboard in an insane effort to make it through the gut and out of the cove. Often smaller actual boats must come to the rescue, and it typically results in very wet and cold sailors.



A 25-foot pole is attached to the end of the floatplane dock and covered in Crisco with a flag at the end--Covered in lots of Crisco--Participants line up and get a good running start until they jump and try to slide, surfer style, to the end of the pole to grab the little red flag. The only catch is when they stop sliding and fall off the pole, they crash into the cold water below. More and more people sign up in hopes of sliding all the way to the end but inevitably crash into the water below. The exciting sliding and crashing attracts a crowd of a few hundred people and something exciting begins to happen. More Crisco goes onto the pole. A tin can starts making its way around the crowd. 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s start making their way into the pot. Raising the spirits of those who continue to slide into the 50* water. Sometimes when it gets especially cold and people are beginning to drop out or seriously question their decision to participate, a 100-dollar bill finds its way into the pot to boost their spirits. Cheering drives the adventurous souls onward until eventually someone grabs the flag at the end of the pole.

Last year our very own boat-head-bashing Ben (remember last blog post?) won the greased pole competition and a whopping 3,000 dollars!! Pretty good way to a) impress the ladies and b) pay for school. However, usually the pot isn’t that large, so before you come up to try to win 3 grand, just know your money may be better spent with lottery tickets.

However, if you do want to experience some of the magic with an Elfin Cove, Fourth of July, there are still openings for Waters Edge and Shoreline overlapping the 4th of July —you won’t regret the adventure!

See you there!! ~ Claire


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