Monthly Archives: February 2009

Playing their respects — Musicians honor local songwriter, shop owner

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Whitey wasn’t able to make an appearance at the party held in his honor at the Kenai Elks Club on Sunday night, but he was there in spirit, in carrying on the tradition he lived his life by — people young and old, aspiring and accomplished, getting together to hang out, swap stories and make music.

By one count more than 300 people cycled through the memorial gathering for Timothy “Whitey” Dyment, of Sterling, who died Feb. 16. More than 30 bands took to the stage to “say hello to Whitey,” as one performer put it.

“There’s really nothing else to do that would do him justice,” said his daughter, Elizabeth Dyment, of Sterling. “It’s good to see so many different people and different age ranges. There are three generations of people here who love Whitey and want to remember him.”

The crowd resembled a roll call of the central Kenai Peninsula’s music scene. From the gathering evolved a set that felt more organic than organized — just like Whitey would have liked. The scenario was a larger version of the one that played out most days in his store, Whitey’s Music Shoppe on Kalifornsky Beach Road. People stopped by, hung out, shared food and laughs, and struck up whatever songs they were moved to play, whether it was country or classic rock, folk, swing or blues, covers or originals — including some of Whitey’s songs.

“This is what Whitey was about, bringing people together and celebrating life and celebrating music,” said Angela Jamieson, his fiancee.

The nickname came from childhood, when it referred to his white-blond hair. The name stuck and he carried it across the country on a BMW motorcycle from Maine to Alaska in 1980. At age 56 when he died, the blond was fading out of his beard and hair, which was often topped with a leather cap and matched with a quick smile that ruined his attempts at a gruff exterior.

“He managed to be kind of a curmudgeon, yet he never pissed anybody off,” said Scot Q. Merry, a musician and music producer. “That’s a good balancing act. It makes you a character but made people still like him.”

Whitey, primarily a guitarist and harmonica player, started working with Bill Zumwalt at Zumwalt’s Music. He bought the place in the early 2000s, renaming it Whitey’s Music Shoppe, Dyment said.

The store was a haven for musicians, especially young ones.

“That was the only guitar shop in town where you could hang out and grab anything you wanted and play it,” said Lowell Granath, who started going to the shop with his dad when he was 10. “That was the only dude I knew guaranteed he’d show up to every show I did.”

Granath bought his first guitar there when he was 13, and was in the store at least five times a week from then on, he said. He worked for Whitey occasionally repairing guitars, but mostly time was spent just hanging out, talking to Whitey or the revolving cast of other visitors.

“All kinds of kids hung out there,” including some who might have been out getting into trouble if they hadn’t had the shop and Whitey to rely on, said Daryl Bowers, a piano player and friend of Whitey’s.

Bowers lost track of how many times he heard off-tune, muffed-note renditions of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and the opening riff to The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” in the shop from aspiring young guitarists. But Whitey never minded.

“I’d take it for about a half hour,” Bowers said. “But Whitey just loved those kids to sit in there and play. They’d come hang out and he was a positive influence on their lives.”

Katie Evans credits that inclusive atmosphere with her finding a place in the community. She came to the central peninsula from Ohio one summer, and didn’t know anybody. She wandered into Whitey’s and ended up hanging out there five days a week, making music and meeting other people who stopped by.

“Whitey would order us pizza, and we’d hang out all day. That’s how we met everyone,” Evans said. “Somehow between then and now we all became family.”
That was just Whitey, said Bob Costley, a drummer who “pretends to be a musician,” he said. Whitey would encourage anyone, especially youth, in following whatever dream they had.

“I would go in his store not wanting anything most of the time except his company, because no matter what kind of day you had, you came out smiling,” Costley said.

His support wasn’t just for youth searching for their path in life, music or the community. He also gave direction — and the occasional swift kick in the rear — to adults who had lost their way.

Bob Sather said he came in to Whitey’s about five years ago after playing music on the road to announce he was done.

“I told him, ‘The bus is parked and it’s over for me. I’ve got a monkey on my back and a hollow leg full of alcohol,’” Sather said. “He told me, ‘You owe it to the music,’ and he called me a bunch of names and said, ‘You owe it to me.’ So I sobered up and did it. I paid my debt.”

Most of the people at the memorial service probably had a similar story of a time when Whitey was there for them, Jamieson said.

“Look at all these people. He helped everyone here be more what their potential was,” she said.

Jamieson met Whitey about three years ago at a music performance at Kaladi Brothers in Soldotna. He was funny, interesting and listened to what she had to say, Jamieson said.

Jamieson wanted to get to know him better, so she visited him at his store, after first checking to see if he had a criminal record — she’s an assistant district attorney, after all. She’s a romantic, but still a realist.

Suitably vetted, Whitey soon proved to be venerable in other areas, as well. He had a bachelor’s degree in social work “and he continued practicing social work through his shop,” Jamieson said.

“I never met a man who had more respect for a woman, someone who saw women as real equals and would allow me to blossom and be who I was,” she said.

Whitey didn’t let things stand in the way of his development, either. In the last 10 years or so he started working earnestly on being a songwriter. Merry worked with him on producing Whitey’s CD. Merry spent 15 years as a musician and producer in Nashville, and has also produced albums for Hobo Jim. He said Whitey was open-minded about his music. He’d write a song and they’d decide what style it best fit in, whether it was country, reggae or whatever.

“The more I listened to his music the more I got into his skill as a songwriter and got to be very enthusiastic about his music,” Merry said.

They performed together occasionally, and always intended to play more frequently. On Sunday, Merry played a set of Whitey’s songs with Bowers, Sather and others, and called up Evans to help with vocals, and Dyment joined them to sing one of her dad’s songs.

Merry said he had expected Whitey at his studio on the day he died. He still had songs to record, and it was a shock for the music community to lose such a prominent part of its melody when there still seemed to be so much left to play.

But in retrospect, Merry thinks that’s not such a bad way to go. Whitey left on a crescendo, not the slow fade.

“Somebody said to me, ‘It’s so sad, he wanted to do this and that and this other thing,’” Merry said. “I turned around and said, ‘Hey, he had big plans and he was moving forward and getting better every day until the last day.’ I think he did it the right way.”

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All you need is Love — Outreach program expanding to provide housing help

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

It’s expensive to be poor.

When an individual or family is living life on the brink, it doesn’t take much to push them over. A broken-down car, a medical bill, a reduction in hours at work, heating and electric bills taking a jump as they did in January — any number of things can mean the difference between making ends meet and falling through the cracks.

“The job market has always been at best thin on the Kenai Peninsula. With the current economic concern people are being cut back on hours. Making minimum wage … it’s impossible. Absolutely impossible,” said Catherine DeLacee, project manager for Love In the Name of Christ. “They get into trouble so fast. With those wages, there’s no savings account. There just isn’t. It’s all consumed by feeding your family and rent.”

A bad situation can quickly spiral out of control. Getting behind on bills leads to a poor credit rating, which means higher interest rates, fees and not being approved for certain loans or programs. There’s no money to go to school or get training to increase job opportunities. And if someone can’t keep up on rent or utilities and gets evicted, they may not even have a phone number or address to list on job applications or public assistance forms.

“It just mushrooms out of sight,” said Ingrid Edgerly, Love INC’s executive director. “These are the people that fell through the cracks. These are people that can’t get help anywhere else and usually end up calling us after accessing all of the resources they know, or they don’t know what other resources are out there.”

That’s where Love INC comes in. The organization, established on the central peninsula in 1987, serves as a clearinghouse to help steer people in need toward available resources. They don’t duplicate services that already exist, Edgerly said, but they are connected with about 60 assistance agencies — such as the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, Frontier Community Services and the various state public assistance offices — as well as 52 churches that offer help and community outreach programs, like the Saint Vincent DePaul Society.

Through those partnerships, Love INC volunteers are able to connect people with all kinds of assistance, from furniture to help with applying for food stamps, and cords of wood to punch cards for Central Area Rural Transit System rides.
More than that, volunteers offer a lifeline in what can be a frightening and frustrating process of getting people back on their feet.

“Advocacy is our number one asset,” DeLacee said. “Many of these people by the time they arrive here have exhausted all other resources, or they’re truly not empowered to start the search. Life has kind of beaten them up. They don’t have computers, don’t have fax machines, they are not going to be able to see a newspaper — they are just so down and out they don’t know what to do.”

Bridging the gap

Love INC intends to be a resource people can call upon when they don’t know what else to do. But for some needs, even Love INC has nowhere to turn. The most glaring gap in service has been housing, especially for families, Edgerly said. The LeeShore Center in Kenai serves women in crisis, and the Friendship Mission north of Kenai houses men, but that leaves a substantial demographic of people out in the cold — perhaps even literally, this time of year.

Edgerly points to a July 2007 study from the University of Alaska Institute of Social and Economic Research that found between 400 and 500 people were homeless annually on the peninsula, and the average age was 9 years old.

Some of these people couch surf or find friends or family willing to take them in for a while, but that’s not a solution. And not everyone has even those short-term options. Some folks, and families, end up living in cars or travel trailers, even in the winter, Edgerly said.

“People come to Alaska without family and friends to back them up, and because they’re from Outside they don’t have a clue that this borough has no social services and they have to go to the state, but there’s a waiting list because the state is inundated. So we just stepped into the gap. But we had to do it on faith because the need is much greater than it was,” DeLacee said.

For years now Love INC has been trying to set up some form of transitional housing, especially for families in need of a place to stay while they get back on their feet. At first the idea was to house people in a church at night, but volunteers were also needed to stay overnight and folks needed somewhere else to go during the day. That program didn’t take off.

Next the organization considered building a transitional living facility. A parcel of land from the city of Soldotna was considered along Kalifornsky Beach Road, but the funding sources Love INC was counting on required a 50-year lease on the land, which Love INC didn’t get.

This winter, Love INC is testing a program that may prove to be the solution. The organization worked out a lease for five rooms at a local hotel, for one-fifth the usual cost, and has been housing people there since December. As of this month, the Love INC Bridge Housing Program has sponsored 1,161 bed nights for 33 people since Dec. 3. The shortest stay was three nights, and one family of four has been housed through the program since it started.

Edgerly said she did not want to identify the hotel, because they are not equipped to deal with walk-ins seeking services. Anyone interested in Love INC’s housing or other programs should call its office at 283-5252.

Guests must go through Love INC’s intake process — including a criminal history check — and meet the program’s criteria. Love INC doesn’t discriminate, Edgerly said, but there aren’t enough resources to help everyone, so priority is given to families first.

The guests have all been approved for Alaska Housing Finance Corp. housing, but have a hard time getting approved for a lease because of credit problems or past financial history. Guests are approved to stay at the hotel for a week at a time, and as long as they abide by the program’s rules — no drugs or alcohol, and continue making progress toward finding work and a permanent place to live — their stay can be extended a week at a time.

While at the transitional housing, Love INC continues to help with other needs, like clothing, transportation, budget counseling or help with a job search. On Monday, the organization partnered with the Rural CAP program to offer a basic math class to any residents who were interested.

Edgerly said Love INC hopes to secure grant money to buy the hotel and expand the transitional housing program. Operating the program on a pilot, five-room basis, as it’s doing this winter, is a huge step in the right direction because it demonstrates that the program is being utilized, and it’s sustainable.

“The bridge housing, not only is it meeting a critical need right now, but it’s also building something for us to show the community and grantors that it’s needed and that we have the support in the community,” Edgerly said.

Trying to keep up

Love INC is experiencing growing pains these days, especially the pain in knowing there are more needs in the community than the organization is able to meet. Some people who contact the organization don’t qualify for assistance, or don’t cooperate with the requirements of the processing procedure. Others have immediate needs, but find that Love INC isn’t an emergency organization. It tries, but it takes time to get through paperwork and to steer people through the necessary channels, Edgerly said.

Complicating matters is the fact that the need for help is growing. The organization recently added two phone lines and a new voice mail system, and is bringing on two new positions, but it’s still not enough. Volunteers come in to find 16 to 25 messages waiting in the morning, which never used to happen, DeLacee said.

Housing needs are greater than Love INC can provide for, as well. The organization has gone up to as many as eight rooms in the Bridge Housing Program since December, but even with the room rate discount, the program is funded through donations. Businesses, churches and organizations have been “astounding” in their support, Edgerly said, but everyone’s feeling the pinch of economic woes this winter.

Love INC also is trying to combat the problem before it starts, by distributing homeless prevention grant money from AHFC. The money goes to keep people in financial crises on the peninsula from being evicted, but at the rate the program’s going, the nearly $50,000 grant will be used up before its June 30 expiration date. In October 2008 Love INC used $2,000 of the grant, and that’s escalated each month to nearly $9,000 in February.

Spread the love

Edgerly said Love INC is focusing more on getting the word out about its services and, especially, its need for donations, volunteers and community support.
“We’re really diligently trying to get word out to the community, not only the problem, but also the need for support to back us and stand behind this. Just because people don’t stand on the street corner getting publicity doesn’t mean there’s not a need,” she said.

“I just really believe that Alaskans are generous, good people. The problem is if they know,” DeLacee added.

To that end, Love INC is holding its annual fundraiser dinner and silent auction at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Soldotna Bible Chapel. Admission is free, and donations toward Love INC’s programs, especially its transitional housing, are gladly accepted. Call the office for reservations at 283-5252.

“We’re not a Band-Aid approach,” DeLacee said. “We’re really here to help people change their lives.”

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Pebble meeting brings much of same

Nunamta Aulukestai sponsors meetings
to educate communities about proposed mine

By Sean Pearson
Homer Tribune

Though some of the players involved were different, much of the information regarding the feasibility and impacts of the Pebble Mine project on Bristol Bay fisheries and the Native Alaska subsistence lifestyle presented at last week’s community meeting at Islands and Ocean Visitor Center echoed similar concerns raised more than a year ago.

Nunamta Aulukestai, (Caretakers of Our Lands), is a consortium of eight village corporations that have combined to sponsor statewide community meetings to raise awareness of mining impacts on state resources.

According to Nunamta Aulukestai Executive Director Terry Hoeferle, the group invited community members to participate in presentations and a roundtable discussion in an effort to educate communities around the state on the impacts of Pebble’s plan to mine some 15 square miles for gold, copper and molybdenum. A similar meeting was held Thursday in Kenai.

More than 50 Homer residents turned out for the Wednesday meeting, which included presentations on mine permitting, the impacts of hard-rock mining, risks to fisheries and technical issues and concerns.

Bonnie Gestring, of Earthworks, spoke specifically on the impacts of hard rock mining, noting conclusions from a 2008 report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage Office on acid mine drainage that found that, “… Acid mine drainage remains one of the greatest environmental liabilities associated with mining, especially in pristine environments with economically and ecologically valuable natural resources.”

Gestring also offered statistics from the Kuipers Maest Report that studied 25 mines around the world. Of those representative mines, Gestring reported that 76 percent polluted groundwater or surface water severely enough to exceed water quality standards.

“Worldwide, the mining industry has experienced two major tailings dam failures per year over the past 30 years,” Gestring noted from a 2002 study. “That’s just unacceptable.”

Dr. Carol Ann Woody also spoke on the risks to fisheries caused by hard rock mining, noting the effects of copper on salmon’s ability to sense direction by smell, thereby impacting their ability to return to spawn.

Pebble has indicated that many of its impact studies are not yet complete, and therefore, they cannot comment or speculate on what all those impacts might be.

“We’re committed to doing this the right way,” said Mining Coordinator Jack DiMarchi.

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‘Oliver!’ comes home — Kenai Performers building community in classic musical


By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Petty thievery, philandering workhouse wardens and meager dinner portions aside, the musical “Oliver!” is about yearning for a home and sense of belonging.

That’s a sentiment that resonates in community theater, especially with the Kenai Performers’ annual musical. The production often involves upward of 100 people, from kids to adults, experienced actors to first-timers, orchestra musicians and the army of volunteers that sews costumes, does makeup, builds sets, creates props, sells tickets and keeps everything running smoothly. All come together, from different backgrounds and stages in life, to donate their time for a few months in the winter for the shared purpose of putting on a show.

“It’s been wonderful to be part of something where there’s anything from little teeny children to teenagers to older adults,” said Chris Pepper, who plays the villain, Bill Sykes. “You know everyone, you’re all smiling and having a good time and working toward something big and having to collaborate and work together and everyone having to get along through stress and everything. It’s an amazing experience. At the end it’s one whole big family, and everyone knows your name and is smiling. You have no choice, really.”

Pepper is one of the newbies, in some respects. He’s been a performing musician in the community for the past six or seven years, but he hasn’t done much theater since elementary school.

“Through my youth and growing up I always put it off, there were always other things to do and reasons why I couldn’t do it. Then I just said, ‘Hey, the theater is right there, right down the street. I’m going to audition for it.’ And I’m very glad I did,” he said.

He may be relatively new to the stage, but he’s used to performing.

“I’ve always been just an outgoing person wanting to entertain, and this kind of filtered it into an environment where it was acceptable, a controlled environment to kind of do what I always do without being told to be quiet,” Pepper said. “Now it’s, ‘You need to be louder.’”

The show originally comes from the book “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens. It follows the winding path of young Oliver, from a workhouse for orphans where he is punished for asking for another portion of gruel by being sold off as an apprentice to the local undertaker. He escapes after being bullied by another apprentice, and unwittingly falls in with a band of thieves led by Mr. Fagin, who recruits boys to pick pockets for him.

Oliver is caught in his first criminal outing, although the victim, Mr. Brownlow, takes pity and is willing to let Oliver stay with him. But Fagin, the Sykes and Nancy, who is in love with Sykes, plot to steal Oliver back from his new, happy home.

Oliver is played by newcomer Logan Boyle. Garrett Hermansen plays the Artful Dodger, Fagin’s young associate. Kenai Performers veterans Marc Berezin and Christin Leckwee play Fagin and Nancy. Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney, in charge of the workhouse, are played by Bob Bird and Cheri Johnson. The musical is written by Lionel Bart and directed by Laura Forbes.

There’s nothing redeemable in Sykes’ character — he’s as nasty and cruel as they come. Nevertheless, Pepper said it’s been good seeing how bad he can be.

“It’s very exhilarating. I go on stage and a button’s pushed and then I’m like pure evil, and every ounce of my body is loud and evil and spitting. It’s an adrenaline rush but it’s hard to turn the button off,” he said. “It’s hard to play him without totally 100 percent giving in to the role, ’cause if I go less than 100 percent I crack up laughing, so I’ve got to go, ‘OK, I’m in for it. Go.’”

Fagin has a few glimmers of having a conscience, and at least pretends to be a decent person, but that’s all just an act — one that Berezin has enjoyed.

“I enjoy on rare occasion playing somebody who is rather unpleasant, and you could certainly say that about Fagin. It’s fun playing someone so creepy,” he said.

As Fagin, Berezin gets to perform some of the more humorous songs of the show.

“It’s where Fagin really exposes who he is, especially ‘Pick a Pocket.’ Thievery is his way of life. In ‘Reviewing the Situation,’ it may be the only moment in the whole show where Fagin shows a few moments of conscience. Mostly he’s a man who gets small boys to steal money for him,” Berezin said.

Berezin was Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” and the title character in “The Wiz” in past Kenai Performers musicals.

“I love it. It’s as much the process as it is the product,” he said. “I enjoy getting together with a group of people all sharing some common goal and I like having the opportunity to hang around with some really wonderful kids, and rehearsal is every bit as fun as the actual performance for an audience. Not that it’s always fun — we know it ain’t.”

Berezin said he’s wanted the Kenai Performers to put on “Oliver!” for years.

“The whole thing is I love this show. I’ve been trying to get Laura to direct this for a long time. It’s a darker show than what we usually do. There is some humor in it and Oliver finds the love he’s searching for. The people who deserve to have things end well for them do, and people who deserve to end badly do,” he said.

“I have to say it was more the music for me than the show itself. And I have to say that I think Fagin is a wonderful part. I’ve wanted to do this play for selfish reasons. I gave pretty good warning to anybody else auditioning for the show that I wanted to be Fagin, and I would find out where they live.”

Forbes said the show has been challenging and joyful to put together.

“I think it’s a well-written musical. It trucks right through,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed watching the actors, many of whom are new to this for the first time, including our Oliver, really develop and support each other in that development.”

Forbes is certainly not new to Kenai Performers. When her parents moved to Kenai, “Oliver!” was the first show they were involved in, in the group that eventually became the Kenai Performers. Her dad, Dave Forbes, played the doctor, and mom, Lorrene Forbes, sewed costumes. Once Laura came along, she was involved, too.

“I was handing out programs at the door as soon as you could see me and I was hanging out in the green room where everybody else’s parents became your parents,” she said.

She went on to get a bachelor’s degree in theater from the University of Alaska Anchorage and worked in several theaters in Chicago before moving back to the central peninsula about two years ago.

In that sense, “Oliver!” has been a fitting show on many levels — for the volunteers looking to participate in a community event, for Forbes getting back to her roots, and for the Kenai Performers organization itself, which is working toward establishing a permanent home.

“Oliver’s song, ‘Where is Love?’ Everybody in the play is looking for some sort of home and family and love, and I think that’s particularly pertinent to what we’re trying to do with Kenai Performers and finding a permanent home, and for me personally, as well, coming home,” she said.

“Oliver!” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, available at Charlotte’s and Already Read Books in Kenai, Sweeney’s and River City Books in Soldotna, and at the door.

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Art Seen: Flowery felt



Clayton and Juanita Hillhouse have a joint exhibit going at the Kenai Fine Arts Center this month, showing concurrently as they have for many years now.

My first impression upon entering the gallery is that it is so crowded I am daunted by the task of taking it all in. I manage to look at each of the 46 pieces, as well as the 26 small “Pictures in Felt for Refrigerators” by Juanita. Clayton’s work is all digital photography; Juanita has chosen to mix in a few watercolors with her large offering of images in felt.

In her watercolors she seems to be going for a similar effect as she manages to get with most of her felt works — filling the space edge to edge. The approach is much more successful in the felt pieces, which on the whole seem to be better composed and have more natural rhythm. The wonderful texture of the felt material adds a sensual element that is quite unique.

“Basil,” labeled as sold, shows an uprooted plant floating in an organic box. The design is graphic and archetypal in its simplicity, and is rendered in muted, subtly varying hues.

Overall, her landscapes are more successful than her flowers, which tend to crowd into the frame. In “Autumn Color,” colorful, braided-looking trees reach to the sky through stratified layers of poofy felt, feeling somewhat akin to watching a sunny Tim Burton daydream evolve.

“Denise Lake in Winter,” a horizontal image similar to “Autumn Color” in its stratification and up-reaching trees, is much more somber and serene. It really evokes the feel of a quiet winter landscape, without being obvious or trite. I would love to see more of the landscape variety, but much larger, so I could really get lost in the cozy wonder of the luscious felt.

Clayton’s works are all photographs, and are united in an effort to describe Alaska flora with a whimsical, digital approach. Whether he simply allows the digital quality to be an element in the piece, or purposefully alters the image in Photoshop, his playfulness comes through.

Particularly pleasing are “Dandelion in Winter” and “Autumn,” which both feel like intimate portraits of the plants, and have similar extreme blurring in the dark background.

Once again, I feel the pieces crowd each other, and it takes effort to view every one. If I could jury this show, I would remove a third of it, and would find a complete exhibit remained, promoting the adage “quality over quantity.” I happen to know they were given less time than is customary for putting together an exhibit, and the KFAC space is a large one to fill. I applaud Clayton and Juanita for rising to the task.

Next month’s offering at the guild will be the Biennial Judged Exhibit. Any adult Kenai Peninsula residents are welcome to enter up to three original pieces between Feb. 26 and 28. All pieces ready to display will be exhibited, and there will be cash prizes for winning entries. The artist reception is planned for 6:30 p.m. March 6.

Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.

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Arts and Entertainment week of Feb. 25

Events:

Ongoing
  • Kenai Peninsula artists may enter up to three works in any medium for the Peninsula Art Guild Biennial Judged Exhibition. All works must be original and suitably framed for hanging and/or prepared for display in 3-D. Cash awards are available for winning entries. Works may be delivered to the Kenai Fine Arts Center, 816 Cook Ave. in Kenai, from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. An artist reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 6.
  • Art Works in Soldotna has photography by Joe Kashi and Rachel Lee on display through February.
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has artwork by Laura Faeo on display through February.
  • The Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College will have “Leader of the Pack,” an exhibition of paintings by New York artist al baio, on display through March 4, with an opening reception from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. Baio won the Boit Award for painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has artwork by Timothy S. Dahl on display.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has artwork by Scott and Renee Davis.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has “Portraits of Flowers in Felt, Watercolor and Digital Photography,” artwork by Clayton and Juanita Hillhouse, on display through February.
  • The Soldotna Senior Center is looking for artists to display their work in the center’s lobby. Shows are one month long. Artwork must hang on the walls. Call Mary Lane at 262-8839. The artist of the month in February is Melinda Hershberger.

Friday
  • Kenai Performers will present the musical classic “Oliver!” at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, available at Charlotte’s and Already Read Books in Kenai, Sweeney’s and River City Books in Soldotna, and at the door.

Saturday
  • Kenai Community Library will hold a tea tasting workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. for ages 18 and older. Participants will sample different blends from the four categories of tea. The workshop will culminate with a tea party.
  • The Soldotna Boys and Girls Club will hold a “Are You Smarter Than Our Kids?” game show fundraiser at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Soldotna Senior Center. Local VIP contestants will attempt to answer questions gathered from the Soldotna club’s students’ homework. Supporters can be a Lifeline sponsor for $300, which includes four tickets to the event and refreshments. A limited number of single tickets are also available to purchase for $20, which includes refreshments. Call Shelley Stockdale at 283-2682 for tickets and more information.
  • The Sterling Senior Center will perform “South Pacific” at 6 p.m. Dessert will be served. Tickets are on sale now.
  • Kenai Performers present “Oliver!” at 7 p.m. at KCHS. See Friday listing.

Sunday
  • Kenai Performers present “Oliver!” at 3p.m. at KCHS. See Friday listing.
  • The Sterling Senior Center will perform “South Pacific” at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Coming up
  • Mari Hahn and Roland Stearns will perform a concert of music for voice, guitar and lute at 7:30 p.m. March 7 at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna. Tickets are $15 general admission, $5 for students, available at Northcountry Fair, River City Books and Sweeney’s in Soldotna, and Already Read Books and the Funky Monkey in Kenai, and at the door.
  • Kenai Performers is looking for directors for Sudden Theatre, a series of 10-minute plays. Actor auditions will be March 7 and 8, and shows will be April 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 at the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai. For more information, contact Marc Berezin at mberezin@edudatasys.com or 262-8874.
  • Central Peninsula Hospital is seeking artwork in a variety of mediums to display in its new addition. Artists in Southcentral Alaska are invited to apply. The deadline for submissions is March 9. For information about the program, contact Leah Goodwin with Aesthetics, Inc. at 619-683-7500, or Goodwin@aesthetics.net, or visit http://kenaiphotography.com/CallForArtists.htm.
  • Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus is requesting proposals from artists for work to be placed in its new Riverview Commons by 5 p.m. March 13. The installation will be complete by Aug. 17. Proposals must include a conceptual sketch including notes, up to 10 slides of past work, a resume and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Submit proposals to Phillip Miller, Kenai Peninsula College, Facilities and Maintenance, 156 College Road, Soldotna, Alaska 99669. Miller can be reached at 262-0325 for more information.

Nightlife:

DJ
  • Friday and Saturday nights at The Riverside.

Live music
  • Hooligan’s Saloon in Soldotna has 9-Spine on Friday and Saturday nights, with a Mardi Gras party Friday.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has the Free Beer Band on Sundays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has LuLu Small on Saturday night.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass by Them Other Shuckers on Friday nights through February.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has live music by Tuff-e-Nuff at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and music by Melissa Glaves and Stephanie Bouchard from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

Karaoke
  • 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
  • 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at the .406 in Kenai.
  • 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 9 p.m. Fridays at J-Bar-B outside Soldotna.
  • 9:30 p.m. Mondays at the Maverick in Soldotna.

Events
  • The J-Bar-B has a cash drawing at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays. Patrons get one ticket each day they’re at the bar. Must be present to win.
  • Hooligan’s in Soldotna has Texas Hold ’Em poker at 5 and 8 p.m. Tuesdays and free pool Thursdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has a pool tournament at 8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has darts Tuesdays.

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Famously cool — Figure skaters put ‘Hollywood on Ice’ in annual show

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The music, from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” set the tone for swashbuckling. So did the sword thrusts, lunges and other fencing motions.

The group of buccaneers was a little disparate, however — with Rocky Balboa, the Men in Black, a devil and a ninja. And instead of slicing through the high seas under the flag of the Jolly Roger, the pirates were gliding over frozen water, surrounded by the banners of local businesses lining the rink at the Soldotna Sports Center.

It was a group number for the older participants of the Soldotna Learn-to-Skate program, in preparation for their “Hollywood on Ice” performance this weekend at the Sports Center.

Forty skaters, from ages 2 to 18, beginner to advanced, will perform in solos, duets and group numbers in the program’s big showcase of the year. Skaters got to pick a favorite movie character to emulate, with some guidance from coaches.
“Some of them suggested and we kind of steered them in the right direction,” said Madalyn McEwen, skating director at the sports center.

This is the program’s third big show, complete with elaborate costumes, music and backdrops, after doing a Disney theme two years ago and Broadway musicals last year. The program has a performance over Christmas and used to do another lower-level show, but recently has ramped that up into this larger-scale performance.

“We got a good response from people,” McEwen said. “It’s a lot of work but it’s fun.”

It’s a busy time of year for the skaters. Not only do they practice two to three times a week for the show coming up, they’ve also got a competition in Wasilla next weekend and another in Soldotna in April.

“They have a blast. They’re very tired this time of the year with extra practices and stuff,” McEwen said.

Much of the work falls to McEwen, as far as working on choreography, coaching and coordinating the show. But after 31 years coaching, she’s used to it.

McEwen has been skating herself since she was 9, with all her brothers and sisters also on the ice, doing hockey or figure skating.

“I took private lessons for years and I just love working with kids,” she said.

She started her kids skating when they were just mastering walking, and now her daughter, Sylvia Shaeffer, is continuing the tradition. Shaeffer’s daughters, Kaidence, 4, and Abygale, 2, are in the Learn-to-Skate program, and Shaeffer helps her mom teach it.

McEwen took over teaching the Soldotna Learn-to-Skate program when she moved down from Anchorage 15 years ago, and she brought the tradition of community performances with her.

Now the kids get a chance to strut their stuff — and stuffing, depending on their costume — for the community. That’s all part of the fun of skating, McEwen said.
“What’s not to love? Every aspect of it — hockey, figure skating, dance, all of it. It keeps those kids busy,” she said.

“Hollywood on Ice” will be performed at 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at the Soldotna Sports Center. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.

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