In what’s being described as a locally flavored cultural exchange, Haines is set to receive a Zamboni-like ice-grooming machine from Haines Junction, Y.T., in a trade for a haul of fresh sockeye fillets.

Under plans being made in the two towns, the swap will culminate in a Yukon salmon feed on Canada Day July 1 and a presentation of the 1982 Olympia Ice Conditioner in the Haines Fourth of July parade.

In the swap, each town receives a gift that’s a bit exotic to its locale. Located 150 miles inland, Haines Junction residents get relatively few salmon. In warmer, coastal Haines, winter hockey is played only during cold spells and then only on an uneven, makeshift rink.

Haines Junction Mayor Mike Crawshay will travel here for a ceremony, and Haines Borough Mayor Jan Hill will head 150 miles north with the Chilkat Dancers to perform in Haines Junction.

“They’ll come down and celebrate with us and we’ll go up there and celebrate with them,” Hill said, adding that the communities are working to become sister cities.

In an interview last weekend in Haines Junction, Crawshay referred to a tradition of trade in the region that goes back centuries. “These kinds of exchanges are far older than both the towns. This is a great way to celebrate that, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

For both Hill and Crawshay, the trans-border connection is personal. Hill’s great grandfather was a Haines Junction Mountie who married a Native woman. Hill’s family roots trace to the First Nations settlement at Klukshu. She figures she has at least a few dozen direct family members in Canada.

Hill remembers childhood trips to visit family in the Yukon when crossing the border was an informal affair that included a customs agent serving up coffee for travelers. “It was still a border, but it was much more casual than it is today.”

She noted that the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation holds annual meetings in Haines for its members who live here.

Crawshay’s connection to Haines was largely through the late Guy Hoffman, a longtime friend and winter sports enthusiast who once led a Haines curling team to competitions in Haines Junction. Only about 10 percent of serving as Mayor is genuine fun, but Hoffman was all about having fun, so the donation of the ice groomer is a tip of the hat to Hoffman, too, Crawshay said.

Paul Wheeler of the Haines Amateur Hockey Association said the idea for the exchange hatched after Canadians learned of the rink here. Haines hockey players also have competed in Haines Junction tournaments. “They said, ‘You guys need a Zamboni,’” Wheeler said.

The exchange was planned for last year, but confusion over which of three ice-conditioners would be donated led to a delay. There were also customs hurdles to clear. To be legal, Haines representatives will travel to the border to take ownership of the machine.

Wheeler has helped set up and maintain a community ice rink at the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds that first went up under Payson’s Pavilion 17 years ago. At that time, a friend gave Wheeler a tiny, model Zamboni the size of a Matchbox car as a joke.

Wheeler this week said he never expected to get the genuine item so soon. “It’s a big surprise. It’s great. Hopefully, this will encourage the expansion of the ice rink.”

At least initially, the machine will be used only for shaving the ice surface of the rink now located in Raven Arena, the fairgrounds’ horse coral. The machine is designed to also apply a thin layer of water to ice, but that requires a warm garage close to the rink, Wheeler said. “I wish we had a cover to our rink and a garage, but we can make it work.”

Wheeler said in recent years as many as 40 recreational skaters use the rink at a time and league play has expanded to women and children. “It’s really fun to see the growth pattern in terms of skills. People love to skate.”

Commercial gillnet fisherman Gregg Bigsby, who will bring in 40 or more sockeye that will be used in the exchange, said he’s excited to be part of the international trade. He met Crawshay through Guy Hoffman and has been involved in planning the exchange. “This is great. It’s for the unity of our two communities. People in Haines Junction are our friends,” Bigsby said.

The exchange involves at least one other cross-border connection. The donated ice conditioner is a surplus one previously used in a community rink at Mount Lorne, a hamlet south of Whitehorse, Y.T. One of its operators there was Lee Close, a former Haines resident who moved to the Yukon after marrying Canadian singer-songwriter Nicole Edwards.