Photos from the Running of the Boots, an annual fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network, are featured in the new book “XTRATUF: An Alaskan Way of Life,” by Douglas resident Larry Johansen.
The Running of the Boots is a fun, end-of-the-summer event where people run a short downtown course while wearing colorful costumes and their XtraTuf boots, which also are known as Sitka Sneakers or Juneau Tennyrunners. About three years ago, the board of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce, which had managed the race, decided to let the Sitka Local Foods Network use the Running of the Boots to raise money for its main projects, which include the Sitka Farmers Market, expanding community gardens in Sitka, trying to get a Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center built, encouraging the sustainable use of traditional foods, and providing education and encouragement for people who want to garden or harvest more local foods.
Johansen, who used to work for now-defunct cruise company, was an amateur photographer who began taking photos seriously after his employer abruptly quit business. He told the Juneau Empire he focused on XtraTufs as a way to talk about how Southeast Alaskans connect with their environment. He started his own business, Rowdy Dog Images, and tried to take at least one good photo a day while he worked on the book. Johansen wrote all of the copy in the book, but did use some borrowed photos (including his photos from the Running of the Boots, which were supplied by Charles Bingham).
Since the book came out in October, Johansen has been traveling the region to promote it. He did this Oct. 29 interview with Jeff Brown on KTOO-FM’s A Juneau Afternoon show. Johansen also had a booth at the Sitka Artisans Market on Dec. 3-5, and he did an interview with KCAW-Raven Radio news director Robert Woolsey, which appeared in this story on KCAW’s regular newscast with extended audio posted on the station’s website (the extended audio aired on KCAW as a Morning Edition interview on Wednesday, Dec. 8).
According to a 2008 article in Capital City Weekly, about a third of the 100,000 XtraTuf boots sold each year end up in Alaska. Commercial fishermen liked the boots because the chevron outsole doesn’t slip on wet boat decks, and the neoprene kept fish oils from getting into the rubber. The boot’s popularity quickly moved to land as people saw how well the boots worked in Southeast Alaska’s rainy and icy weather.
The boots have been around since the 1950s, when B.F. Goodrich commissioned Norcross Safety Products of Rock Island, Ill., to manufacture the boots. Norcross bought the rights to the brand in 1985, but in 2008 to Honeywell Safety Products acquired Norcross and the XtraTuf brand. Until this year, the boots always had been manufactured in the same Illinois factory, but now they will be made in China.
Johansen’s book can be found in Sitka at Old Harbor Books. People also can order it off of his website for $19.90 a copy (plus postage).