At eleven o'clock in the morning on the Fourth of July, about 200 people gather along a sandy road near the Salmon River Bridge in Gustavus, Alaska, beneath a big, blue summer sky filled with white clouds. Down near the river, Matt Cahill, sporting tie-dyed blue-and-purple jeans and a Stars and Stripes hat, is good-naturedly coaxing a motley collection of paraders into something approximating a straight line. Then the all-woman Hootchie Blues Marching Band (flute, snare drum, clarinet, two saxophones, and kazoo) strikes up a tune and the parade begins, with Cahill—a part-time Gustavus resident—at the fore. Behind Cahill, an 8-year-old Boy Scout named Chris Trump marches with an American flag twice his size. A fire truck rolls by, filled with children laughing and waving flags, then come a flotilla of bikes, a couple of wanna-be Arabian dancing girls, and a dozen kids (from the Gustavus Library) waving from the back of a dark green '51 Chevy pickup. The parade winds on for a half a mile or so, then doubles back, and we follow it to a clearing. Here, Trump and park ranger Randy King raise Old Glory, and we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Tradition dictates that, at this point, the crowd sing "The Star Spangled Banner"—but instead, voices break emphatically into "Alaska's Flag", the Alaskan state song, and then into "America the Beautiful". Why not? This is Alaska, after all; this is Independence Day.