Alaska Marine Highway to celebrate 50 years of service with event

Published on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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The Port of Bellingham and the Alaska Marine Highway System are celebrating the Alaska Marine Highway’s 50th anniversary with a walking tour of an Alaska Ferry and a trade and travel show at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven this Saturday, September 14. 

The 50th anniversary celebration will include a public open house aboard the MV Kennicott, a travel and trade show featuring Alaska communities, kids’ activities, cake and live music.

“We are always getting requests from people in the community who want to get aboard and check out the ferry before they 
decide to go to Alaska that way,” said Carolyn Casey, director of external affairs for the port. “It’s not very often in the ferry’s schedule that they can do something like this, so it’s a great opportunity to tour the vessel and talk to staff and see what it would be like to travel to Alaska.”

The MV Kennicott will be in port for an open house where visitors may tour the bridge, dine onboard, and visit the gift shop to purchase 50th anniversary memorabilia. People will need photo ID to board the vessel.

Representatives of communities visited by the ferry will be in the terminal for an Alaska Travel and Trade Show to share with
 guests all there is to do in Alaska.

“This is a great way to explore the ferry and learn more about visiting Alaska,” said Port of Bellingham commission president Jim Jorgensen. “The Alaska ferry is an important part of our community and we are so pleased that Bellingham serves as their lower mainland port.”

The travel and trade show will include visiting tourism representatives from Dutch Harbor, Haines, Homer, Juneau, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Sitka, Unalaska, and Wrangell. There also will be tourism representatives from the Alaska Marine Highway System, Un-Cruise Adventures, Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism and the McDowell Group.“If you’re thinking of going to Alaska, this is a great opportunity to talk to people from the communities therea head of time,” said Casey.

Originally the Alaska Marine Highway System had its southern port in Seattle, not Bellingham. 

But a countywide multi-year lobbying effort successfully attracted the ferry service to Bellingham.  On October 3, 1989, more than 1,000 people welcomed the arrival of the Alaska Ferry to the Port of Bellingham’s newly constructed Bellingham Cruise Terminal in Fairhaven, celebrating the completion of the $10.3 million project. 

At noon during the September 14 anniversary celebration, a group photo of all in attendance will recreate the original photo taken during the opening of the Bellingham Cruise Terminal in 1989.

“It’s a great time for people to learn more about the ferry system,” Casey said.

In addition to the official celebration on Friday, September 13, there will be a free showing of KTOO’s one-hour documentary “Alaska’s Marine Highway” at the Pickford Film Center at 1318 Bay Street at 5 p.m.

People are encouraged to call the Pickford in advance to reserve their free tickets 360/738-0735.

For more information about the event, call Casey at 360/676-2500.