Trash cans showcase civic pride in Petersburg
Karen Hofstad has a collection of a couple hundred or so seafood related cans and labels that would make fishing industry historians salivate. The majority of the collection represents the salmon industry and canneries throughout Alaska, including Kodiak, Petersburg and Wrangell, and they are the inspiration for trash cans worthy of a framed photograph.
Last summer Bruce Schactler, a fisherman from Kodiak, contacted Hofstad to ask her to share her labels to create 30 trash cans to help revitalize downtown Kodiak. The quick-thinking Hofstad, joined in on the Kodiak order to save some money through a quantity discount, and ordered 10 cans of her own to put in Petersburg.
"I went and picked out labels. I didn't even talk to anybody I just said I'll buy 10, and then I thought, 'I hope people are going to be interested,'" she says. "It just went boom, boom, and I tried to pick labels that were more Petersburg specific."
Hofstad ended up with 12 cans to be distributed around town They are specially made in Canada, then shipped to Oregon to complete the finished product. The graphics used to wrap the cans need to be strong enough to last and withstand the daily bump and grind a trash can takes. The company responsible for placing the graphics on the cans do the graphics for NASCAR stock cars, so they should keep their finish and look good for years to come, Hofstad says.
After the labels were picked the cans were ordered, and Hofstad approached the local Alaska Marine Lines (AML) to help support the cause. AML jumped at the opportunity to donate the freight costs to get the cans from Oregon to Petersburg.
Then the fun began. Hofstad enlisted the help of Petersburg local Glo Wollen and they started searching for sponsors to purchase individual cans.
"We didn't really have a fundraiser, everybody we asked pretty much wrote a check," Hofstad says. "So that was really nice."
With all the cans sold, the pair started planning how to unveil the trash cans to donors. They decided to hold a special event at Wollen's warehouse on March 26, giving local donors the opportunity to see the finished product for the first time.
Around 35 people attended the unveiling which pleased Wollen for a couple reasons. She got to host a party and she could stop keeping the secret about having the cans hidden in her warehouse, where they have been since before Christmas, Wollen says.
All the cans are original and well decorated, and the project allowed Wollen to sponsor a very personal trash can with a label for Norwegian style fish loaf, something she grew up eating often. When she graduated from high school Hofstad framed the label and gave it to her as a gift. Wollen then took the framed memento to college, and it gained great interest from schoolmates, then eventually became her trash can. Wollen's trash can will be located at Fishermen's Memorial Park, something she is also very excited about.
"We have a lot of civic pride in this community," Wollen says. "Hopefully people will see these as an extension of that."
Eleven of the 12 trash cans are dedicated to salmon and the other is a shrimp can sponsored by the Ohmer family. For Dave Ohmer of Trident Seafoods, the can symbolizes the pride he and many others have in their background, and what helped build Petersburg. He believes their addition to town will be aesthetically and historically significant.
"For us, for our family, that's our story, but every one of those cans is somebody's story," Ohmer says. "We are thrilled with the can, and it's going to be right there out front where my dad and grandfather's office was, and I couldn't be any happier."
For Fred Haltiner, who was born here 74 years ago, contributing to the project did not take a lot of thought. He knows a lot about the fishing industry after participating in it his whole life, and hopes the trash cans will lead to a visual learning experience for visitors.
"It's our life here in Petersburg," he says. "They are all good, they really are neat to look at."
Ronn Buschmann also purchased a trash can and promptly admits he does not even know which one he purchased. He just truly enjoyed seeing all the cans together in Wollen's warehouse and the meaningful message they carry.
"It's carrying our history, our traditions forward and you've got to keep that stuff in the forefront or you're going to lose it," Buschmann says. "This is what our town's all about, we're not about zip lines or Ferris wheels, we're about working and canning fish."
Hofstad says the trash cans are part of an ongoing effort to preserve and promote the history of the fishing industry in Petersburg. The trash cans were phase one, and PFI plant manager Patrick Wilson has been busy working on phase two, which will be a small park dedicated to cannery workers with covered structures at the open lot next to the laundromat, she says.
Ola Richards of the Petersburg Pilot is also part of the effort. She designed two 7x4 displays that will be featured in the park, including a timeline dedicated to the seafood processing industry and individuals that helped establish its rich heritage. The other will be a map of where the trash cans will be located. The hope is to give visitors something wonderful to take in and hopefully inspire them to take a walking tour of the trash cans, Hofstad says.
"Ola did a great job, we are really thrilled with her work and attention to detail," Hofstad says. "Now all that's left is for Public Works to start rolling the cans out."
And the trash cans are already installed, all 12 of them, thanks to the fast pace of Public Works. Director Karl Hagerman had a team installing two or three of the trash cans a week in a random order. The majority of the cans are downtown, with one at the airport, one at the library and another placed at the ferry terminal.