The 77th Golden North Salmon Derby is dedicated to:
Alysha Reeves and Cheri Wharton
by Doug Larson
|Alysha Reeves and Cheri Wharton
Alysha Reeves loves and cares deeply about her community and her family. “Healthy communities don’t just happen,” Alysha tells me matter-of-factly. “They happen because of people reaching out and selflessly volunteering their time.” For Alysha, the Golden North Salmon Derby has been a perfect place to volunteer her time, along with Gold Rush Days, where she’s sold tacos annually for the past 11 years.
Alysha’s been volunteering at the Auke Bay weigh-in station for the past 8 years, and this year she’s generously volunteered to oversee the volunteers at all three weigh-in stations (Amalga, Douglas, and Auke Bay). “Kami (Bartness) Grant got me involved in the derby,” Alysha recollects. “When she decided to step down as the dock coordinator after 18 years, she encouraged me to take over. I’m grateful to Kami for preparing me, with good coaching and mentoring. I feel ready.” This year’s derby committee agrees and looks forward to Alysha’s leadership!
Besides her love for and devotion to her community, Alysha loves and cares deeply about her family – her mother, two siblings, 3 stepdaughters, and her boyfriend. Her mother, Cheri Wharton, has worked alongside Alysha and other volunteers at the Auke Bay dock for the past 7 years. “My mom and I are tight,” Alysha tells me. “Honestly, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for her and her positive influence. And while I’m truly honored to have this year’s derby dedicated to me, it just doesn’t seem right to accept this honor without including her.” This year’s derby committee agrees, and so the 77th Golden North Salmon Derby is dedicated to both Alysha and Cheri, a truly dynamic duo!
Cheri came to Juneau in the mid-1980s and enjoyed fishing in several derbies soon after her arrival. She recalls the old days when boats would charge out of the harbors together at the sound of a large blast. “I was in a small skiff back then,” she recalls, “and it was scary being in the churned-up water with all those other boats!” Cheri recalls the year she caught a 45-pound king salmon a week or two before the derby. “It would’ve won that year,” she tells me with a devilish grin. “I should’ve put it on ice,” she adds with a chuckle.
When asked about memorable experiences at the Auke Bay weigh-in station, both Alysha and Cheri respond without hesitating. “It was the day the dock started to sink from the weight of 9 fish-filled totes. A little chaotic, but very exciting,” they declare. “And the people,” Alysha adds, “it’s so much fun seeing young families and good friends out fishing together. The smiles, the laughter, the camaraderie, the good-natured banter, and the positive attitudes; they’re all so great!” “Weighing the fish is fun too,” adds Cheri, whose memorable highlights include weighing a couple of derby-winning salmon.
Now, without a boat, Alysha and Cheri ‘scratch their fishing itch’ by living vicariously through the excitement of derby participants. “I must admit, though,” Cheri tells me, “I miss the feel of a salmon peeling line, and, you know, I even miss the occasional tangled lines!”
As we talk, Alysha circles back to community. “Life can get lifey,” she tells me. “It’s good to get out of routines, take time to reach out and do things for others. Healthy communities,” she reiterates, “don’t just happen. And,” she adds, “the salmon derby is for a great cause! Over $2 million in scholarships awarded to high school students over the past 70 years! That’s incredible!”
As we end our conversation, I can’t help myself and ask Cheri what the story is behind her pink-tinged blond hair. “No story,” she responds with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, “it’s just that pink’s my favorite color!” I chuckle, admitting to myself that the pink looks good on her!
And so it is with deep respect, admiration, and gratitude that the 2023 Golden North Salmon Derby Committee dedicates its 77th annual derby to mother of three, Alysha Reeves, and pink-haired, Cheri Wharton, a truly magnanimous and dynamic duo! Thanks Alysha and Cheri for your love and service to our community!