Sitka bears enjoy a taste of British tradition

Brown bear “Lucky” devours a kibble-filled pumpkin on Guy Fawkes Day. (FOB photo/Debi Terry)
Brown bear “Lucky” devours a kibble-filled pumpkin on Guy Fawkes Day. (FOB photo/Debi Terry)

Guy Fawkes Day doesn’t mean much to anyone unless you happen to be British — or in one special case in Sitka — a brown bear.

Every year on November 5th, Brits recall the day in 1605 when Fawkes rolled barrels of gunpowder into the basement of Westminster, and nearly blew up both houses of parliament and the king before he was caught.

The day is traditionally celebrated by lighting a bonfire and burning the notorious traitor in effigy. Chris Turner, at Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear, had a different approach. He spoke with KCAW’s Rich McClear.

McClear – Is it traditional to feed an effigy of Guy Fawkes’ head to the bears?
Turner – Absolutely not. It’s not something we often do in England. We don’t have a huge amount of bears to partake in the tradition. But it’s fun. We’re putting a bit of an Alaskan spin on it.

Turner is a volunteer at the Fortress. He hails from Exeter, England.

Besides inviting the community to feed leftover Halloween pumpkins to its several grizzly bears, the Fortress lit the traditional bonfire and placed another pumpkin — carved in the likeness of Guy Fawkes — on top.

The symbolism may have been lost on the several dozen Yankees who turned out for the event, as one onlooker observed.

“I smell pumpkin roasting. It’s a really good smell — the best smell!”

And likely to be the animals’ only opportunity to enjoy it — like their wild counterparts, most of the Fortress bears will head to bed before pumpkin pie season and the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving.

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