At significantly less than five feet tall, Fairbanks Grande Dame Marcel Colp was having difficulty seeing over the thousands of on-lookers. I barely know Marcel, but I love her dearly. Marcel is one of those rare people who are genuinely made out of pure sugar.
I wasn’t in Fairbanks to attend the peaceful changing of Alaska’s government; I was here to enjoy a week with the Fairbanks Pioneers of Alaska as they celebrated their Golden Days. Marcel Colp is a former Fairbanks Igloo Queen Regent, I was last years Seward Queen Regent. I failed to show up to wave in their 2 ½ hour parade, so this summer I was attending as a good will gesture.
Queen Marcel is nothing but good will as she explains with understandable pride that she has attended the swearing in of nearly every governor Alaska has known, and was determined to witness the passing the touché. Her dedicated husband was waiting in the car, to ill to brave the crowds. It was hot. There was no chair for the Fairbanks Queen, no water, not even a commemorative program. We put her on one of the gangways of the S.S. Nenana, close to the stage so she could at least hear what was going on since there was no chance of her seeing.
“Quitter!” hollered a 30-something woman repeatedly as soon-to-be-former Governor Palin was speaking.
“Go home!” yelled a very pregnant 30-something woman next to her, not at Sarah Palin, but at the heckler.
“Freedom of speech, it’s my right to say it,” the heckler boldly challenged. “Quitter! Quitter!”
“We aren’t interested in hearing you,” explained a 60-year old woman. “We are here to hear the ceremony. Now if you can’t behave, go home!”
“Go home!” confirmed the soon-to-be mom.
Queen Marcel completely ignored the catfight that derailed my attention. Her unwavering focus was on the speaker, following the word jumbo sound bites that bounced around Sarah’s need to hire a better speechwriter. My attention went to the signage that was scattered around the crowd, “Sick of $arah”, “Captain Zero to the Rescue”, “Bong Hits For Sarah”
A Native Elder with long white hair and a black leather vest covered with VFW patches inserted himself in the personal space of the heckler and quietly spoke some measured words. The heckler glanced around anxiously then quickly left our area.
Sarah finished, and as she moved away from the podium a good fourth of the crowd left. She was done, and they were done as well. I pushed Queen Marcel through the hole the Palinistas made in the crowd and managed to get her right to the edge of the seated guests where her view was clear and the acoustics were considerably better.
Queen Marcel stood with a reflective smile as they swore in Sean Parnell and Craig Campbell. She nodded her head in agreement as they outlined the broad strokes of where they envisioned their administration taking Alaska. She clapped at every pause, sang along to the Alaska Flag song, and in a record number of attendees at Pioneer Park, gracefully embodied all of the positive attributes that the speakers had assigned to the character of Alaskans.
After the ceremony one had to chose between cake or a handshake, and Queen Marcel chose the handshake line. We stood behind a group of military wives, all of whom had photographs of their overseas servicemen with Palin,, hoping for an autograph.
“I want to thank her for her service.” Queen Marcel explained in her simple way. She wasn’t able to. We watched as Sarah stopped for a few television cameras, baby in arm, then entered the back seat of a dark pick-up truck which slowly drove her away, leaving Parnell and Campbell to bask in their moment in the sun.
“I doubt if I will ever see her again,” reflected Queen Marcel matter-of-factly.