Each year, Wrangell looks forward to a month-long lead-up to the community’s biggest holiday celebration, the Fourth of July. That’s in large part due to the Fourth of July Royalty Race, a flurry of fundraising that aims to sell food, raffle tickets and solicit donations to fund the coming year’s fireworks and festivities.
This year, there’s one candidate for Fourth of July King: incoming high school junior Ander Edens. The 16-year-old is an accomplished musician, a member of the secondary school’s earthquake-monitoring “Shake Club” and tech alliance, and a volunteer around town.
For the next month, Edens will also be heading up the Chamber of Commerce’s Fourth of July fundraising efforts as the sole royalty candidate. He’ll be helping to run a downtown lunchtime food booth and organizing other fundraising events and parties, as well as going door-to-door selling raffle tickets.
KSTK’s news director Sage Smiley sat down with Ander Edens and his dad James to talk about the preparation and motivation behind the run for Wrangell’s King of the Fourth of July.
ROUGH TRANSCRIPT (There may be minor errors, and the script has been lightly edited for reading flow):
Sage Smiley (KSTK): Thanks for being here to do an interview about your run for King today. Would you both introduce yourselves and what your roles are in this run for King, to start out?
ANDER EDENS: I’m Ander Edens, I am the person running for King.
JAMES EDENS: And my name is James Edens. And I’m the food manager.
KSTK: So what motivates your run for King? What makes you want to do this? I know that people say it’s a pretty crazy process, and I’m sure you’re already having a crazy time. So why do it?
ANDER: I wanted to run for King, really, just to support our community, I saw a need that was in the community, and I wanted to fill that.
JAMES: And I felt the same way. There’s been a lot of people over the years who have put a lot of effort and time into this event, and we’ve enjoyed it for so many years. I thought it was time to give back in a big way. We’ve always sort of volunteered doing little stuff around the Fourth, but this is pretty epic. And also one of the benefits is earning him a little bit of money that’ll hopefully go [toward] college stuff.
KSTK: What will success look like to you in this run for Fourth of July royalty? Whether that’s a financial metric, whether that’s an events metric, what will success look like to you?
ANDER: A baseline for success is getting next year’s fireworks and games paid off. That’s like, just base, baseline. Everything above that would be awesome. And the ultimate goal would be to beat the record, which is I think $120,000 – around $120,000 raised, which would be awesome.
KSTK: What are you most excited about – whether that’s a more ephemeral thing, like the vibes or a specific event that you have planned so far, what are you most excited about in this run for Fourth of July royalty?
ANDER: Nobody’s asked me that question, that’s a good question. I would say I’m most excited for seeing how the community [will] respond, and then trying to make it the best as possible – I’m excited about trying to make the next Fourth of July the best as possible, the best that we can have.
JAMES: I’m most excited just to get out there and have a good time. I’ve never really run a pop-up restaurant before. That’s a pretty rare experience. But I’m excited about getting out there with people and seeing people happy about the activity downtown. And getting people excited about the Fourth.
KSTK: Flipside question, what are you most nervous for? What scares you the most about this process?
ANDER: I would say running the food booth. That’s a lot of work. A lot, a lot of work. And I’m very sure that will work out. But just running the food booth. That’s a nerve-wracking thing.
JAMES: Same. Same for me, the booth is going to be a lot of work. It already has been a lot of work just in the planning. But I think it’s – I’m with Ander, I think it’s going to work out just fine. We still need some volunteers to fill in some slots. I just don’t want to run out of ketchup and then have turmoil in the line. But I think that’ll be easily remedied.
KSTK: So you’re running a food booth – That’s the main thing I think people see when they look at the Fourth of July royalty race, they see the food booth down there every day and know about that. But what other things are you doing or planning or looking forward to?
JAMES: Sure, I’ll answer first, we’ve got a couple of extra things that we’re doing. There’s a kid’s kickoff thing on the first Saturday (June 3). And then there’s rummage sales, silent auctions – which is gonna be epic, by the way, I’ve got some awesome stuff coming. And there’s a dunk booth that we’ve had a couple of police officers, and a school principal willing to sit in the booth to get dunked, and then there’s a Solstice Party on the Saturday following the solstice with The Powers band playing. So there’s a lot of extra things rather than just food. And then the candidate spends a lot of time selling tickets door to door, right?
ANDER: Yep. Yeah, and a lot of my time is gonna be in the booth taking orders and all that stuff and then selling tickets door-to-door, sitting in front of restaurants asking for donations and a lot of that sort of stuff.
KSTK: Have you talked to any previous candidates about their experience and got advice from people? Where are you getting ideas or advice from when you’re looking at doing this big month of fundraising?
ANDER: Really anyone we can. The chamber has been a big help – Brittani [Robbins] has, and everyone there has been really supportive and really helpful. And really any past candidate we can talk to we’ve been trying to talk to just get as much help as possible.
JAMES: Yeah, we’ve definitely reached out to prior candidates and prior food managers. But Ander is right, Brittani and the chamber have been the biggest help so far. Brittani’s knowledge from – I think she told us she started doing this 25 years ago when she was a kid, selling tickets before she was 12, basically. And so she’s been amazing. Lots of good advice. And a lot of prior food managers giving me pointers about: sell this, don’t sell that, make sure you have this many burgers ready every day, things like that.
KSTK: How can people help? What help do you still need? Or – I mean, it’s not just you, it’s a lot of people around you. And then how can the community get involved to help this fundraising run be successful?
ANDER: We need volunteers, whether you want to work in the booth from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., sell tickets around town, ask for donations, write out tickets after we get them in, or work in the kitchen. We just need volunteers all around. And I think we’ve been putting a lot on Facebook for volunteers and anyone who wants to, we have a time that can be filled.
JAMES: Yeah, that’s true. Volunteers are the biggest – I think the biggest way this thing is going to be a success. And we do have a good base. But as Andrew said, there’s still slots available. And for people with regular sort of eight to five kind of jobs, we’ve got Tuesdays have dinners planned, and then I already mentioned some stuff on Saturdays, and then there’s one Sunday event on Father’s Day. I’m going to be cooking 10 briskets. So I probably need a little bit of help on Father’s Day, because that’s a lot of meat.
KSTK: Is there anything else we haven’t touched on about either your motivations or your need for help, need for ideas, whatever that may be that you’d want to mention?
JAMES: I’d say I just want everyone to be excited about it. You know, there’s a lot of build-up to the Fourth. I know that June is a long month to build up to one day. But we all know Wrangell does it the most epic, right? It’s not just one day, it’s at least five days. Everybody’s coming to town, and families are coming back. People are excited. I think it’s a good time of year for people to set aside some of their differences and jump in there and celebrate all together.
KSTK: Totally. When’s the kickoff event?
JAMES: There’s a small kickoff event on May 31. It doesn’t have to be small, it’s just traditionally small. But Ander is going to give a speech on the 31st. And then the official day for ticket selling is June 1, and the first day of the food booth is also June 1.
KSTK: Do you have a theme that you’re running with?
ANDER: Yes, yes. We do have a theme. [This year’s Wrangell Fourth of July theme is] the diamond in Southeast. So our little jingle for that is: ‘Bling, bling, Ander for King,’ that’s a little jingle for that.
JAMES: Ander’s mother Laura Edens came up with the jingle. She’s very proud of it. (laughs)
KSTK: Well, thank you, Ander and James, for coming in and talking about your run for King, and best of luck!
ANDER & JAMES: Thank you.
June 1 is the first day of ticket sales for the 2023 Fourth of July Royalty Race. There will be a small kickoff event the day before, on May 31, at the downtown pavilion.
Follow along with Ander’s fundraising journey on Facebook at “Ander4King.”
Get in touch with KSTK at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 874-2345.