One of Ketchikan’s many nicknames is “Salmon Capital of the World,” so when the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Transit Department decided a few years ago to paint some of its buses, a salmon theme seemed appropriate.
Ketchikan artist Ray Troll hooked the contract for the first bus, which has been in use since 2009. On Monday, the borough unveiled the second of its three planned painted buses.
Ketchikan’s newest addition to the Salmon Run fleet of buses started its newly decorated life with drumming, dancing, singing and praying during the dedication ceremony on a blessedly warm, sunny day outside the borough’s offices.
Washington-based Northwest Coast artist Marvin Oliver snagged the contract for this second painted bus, and he used traditional form-line design techniques for his interpretation of the salmon run. Oliver had help from Memo Jauergui, who also assisted Ray Troll on the first bus-painting odyssey.
Jauergui was among a group of people waiting outside borough offices for the bus, and the primary artist, to arrive. The team of artists finished the job in what seemed to an outsider like record time, but what do I know?
“We were working long, long hours – pulling 13-14 hours day since Monday or Tuesday,” he said. “When you see the bus you’ll see why, because there’s a lot of line and it’s got to be right.”
Oliver was a little late to the dedication, but that’s OK, because the bus was a little later.
“I got lost, and I think the bus got lost,” he said, hurrying up to the crowd.
Oliver says he’s pleased with how the bus turned out, but it’s not done, yet. They still have to add some eggs to the design.
“These eggs will be — little salmon eggs – will eventually be attached to the bus,” he said. They’re cast glass with dichroic, so they’ll change colors as you drive by, so it’ll be kind of a nice little touch.”
Eventually, the bus rounded the corner, and singing from the dance group on board could be heard over the engine.
As the bus pulled in front, and opened the doors, the group danced its way off, continuing the song in front of the vehicle.
Oliver donned a cedar bark hat, and thanked everyone who helped on the project. Her gave his trademark Northwest Coast-design wool blankets to each of his assistants. They then took turns introducing themselves in the traditional manner – giving their names and family backgrounds.
Then, there was more singing and dancing. That was followed by a prayer, led by Nahaan, who goes by one name.
Transit Director Kyan Reeve says that one big reason for the Salmon Run buses is easy identification.
“We’re really excited about it,” he said. “It’ll make it very easy for the hundreds of thousands of visitors that ride our system, make it real easy for them to identify the system, which is always the toughest part, knowing which bus to get on.”
The borough provides a free summertime shuttle between tourist attractions in downtown Ketchikan. The city’s many summer visitors also join residents on the regular system for a small fee.