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April 29, 2008

Tale of two 'Sitkas': Proud Alaskans wonder how Rockport feels about masquerade

ROCKPORT — Even long-distance inquiries receive a response from selectmen within two weeks. Just ask Rich McClear, a native of Sitka, Alaska.

McClear, an employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was on assignment training budding journalists in Prishtina, Kosovo, last week when he decided to send an e-mail to Rockport's Board of Selectmen regarding the filming of Disney/Touchstone Pictures' "The Proposal."

In the tongue-in-cheek e-mail, McClear expressed curiosity as to how Rockporters felt about Hollywood transforming their town into an Alaskan seaside city — complete with totem poles.

"Apparently your town is masquerading as my town," McClear wrote to the selectmen. "I feel like the victim of identity theft. I am curious if you feel likewise violated, having your town's identity changed into my town's identity. Just curious about reactions in Rockport, Ma."

That was Wednesday.

Yesterday, Town Administrator Michael Racicot responded via e-mail, thanking McClear for his message and sending along Rockport's best wishes.

"I am sure you understand that it was not decided by the Board to stand in for Sitka, Alaska," Racicot wrote. "This is Hollywood magic at work, and the producers made the decision. From all accounts, Sitka is a lovely community and I hope someday to visit your town."

Producer Todd Lieberman said the tax incentives offered by the state made Rockport attractive, and eventually creative reasons help solidify the town as the best place to set up shop.

McClear could not be reached by press time yesterday, but Racicot said the exchanges that have blossomed between the communities as a result of the filming have been positive.

"I thought (the e-mail) was fun; I appreciate his civic pride in his town," Racicot said yesterday. "But I wanted him to know we're proud of Rockport and would've rather been identified (in the movie) as Rockport, rather than as Sitka."

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