By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter
At about noon March 1, I was sitting in our bayside apartment when my cellphone chimed. It was a text message from Yvonne at the local flight service station where she works:
“At 2 p.m. there will be a candy drop from an airplane, downtown! Don’t miss it!”
Yvonne knew I was hunting for good photo ops at the annual Beaver Roundup celebration. I’d already photographed several activities but hadn’t even noticed this one on the list of events.
When I texted back for clarification, she answered swiftly.
She’d spoken to the pilot, who would be dropping in low over Dillingham with his little red Super Cub. He was scheduled to drop candy, along with a slew of colored balls that kids could redeem for cash, near the local lily pond (near the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office) at 2 p.m. Since Yvonne had specified “downtown,” however, I figured that the venue had been changed because unusually warm weather had created a layer of overflow on the frozen pond. At 1:30 p.m. I strode out the door, two cameras at the ready.
On a curving section of an oddly deserted Main Street about 10 minutes later, I leaned against a creosoted power pole and waited. At 2 p.m. there were still no crowds. Nevertheless, I heard an airplane, and soon a red Super Cub was aiming straight for downtown, past the pond and directly above the street on which I was standing — and onward, without so much as a Tootsie Roll spiraling to the ground.
I watched as the plane roared out over Nushagak Bay, made a graceful, sweeping, left-hand turn and angled for the city water tower. It dived low, as if to land, and I swore I
heard children cheering. Then the plane was rising again, heading back toward the Dillingham Airport.
Just as I thought I’d somehow missed the whole thing, however, the plane turned again and headed back into town. Once again it flew over my position, turned above the bay and aimed for the tower. Once again I heard children cheering.
On the off chance that there might be another encore, I began running. Past N&N Grocery, left, past the hardware store, left, past the bank, right, past Bristol Bay Campus
and Dillingham High School, right. There, at the far end of a long, fenced-in playground, stood the water tower. Inside the metal perimeter surged a herd of children, brandishing plastic grocery sacks already heavy with treats and colorful plastic balls.
I raced for the scene just as the plane swooped again in front of the tower and laid down another volley. Screaming, happy children sloshed through snow, ice and wet grass, grabbing for goodies on the ground. I huffed and puffed into position, and my photographic efforts were erratic and disappointing.
Then someone near me said the plane was coming back one more time.
And thus it was that I witnessed (and finally photographed) the last candy drop on one of the last days of the five-day, 56th annual celebration known as Beaver Roundup.