View from Out West: Small towns big on community

Photo by Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter. A herd of kids scramble after candy and plastic balls dropped by a plane in the Beaver Roundup Festival in Dillingham on March 1.

Photo by Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter. A herd of kids scramble after candy and plastic balls dropped by a plane in the Beaver Roundup Festival in Dillingham on March 1.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

At about noon March 1, I was sitting in our bayside apartment when my cellphone chimed. It was a text message from Yvonne at the local flight service station where she works:

“At 2 p.m. there will be a candy drop from an airplane, downtown! Don’t miss it!”

Yvonne knew I was hunting for good photo ops at the annual Beaver Roundup celebration. I’d already photographed several activities but hadn’t even noticed this one on the list of events.

The Beaver Roundup button is a collector’s item from each year’s festival.

The Beaver Roundup button is a collector’s item from each year’s festival.

When I texted back for clarification, she answered swiftly.

She’d spoken to the pilot, who would be dropping in low over Dillingham with his little red Super Cub. He was scheduled to drop candy, along with a slew of colored balls that kids could redeem for cash, near the local lily pond (near the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office) at 2 p.m. Since Yvonne had specified “downtown,” however, I figured that the venue had been changed because unusually warm weather had created a layer of overflow on the frozen pond. At 1:30 p.m. I strode out the door, two cameras at the ready.

On a curving section of an oddly deserted Main Street about 10 minutes later, I leaned against a creosoted power pole and waited. At 2 p.m. there were still no crowds. Nevertheless, I heard an airplane, and soon a red Super Cub was aiming straight for downtown, past the pond and directly above the street on which I was standing — and onward, without so much as a Tootsie Roll spiraling to the ground.

I watched as the plane roared out over Nushagak Bay, made a graceful, sweeping, left-hand turn and angled for the city water tower. It dived low, as if to land, and I swore I

Kids line the route of the Beaver Roundup parade equipped with sacks to store the candy loot tossed from the floats.

Kids line the route of the Beaver Roundup parade equipped with sacks to store the candy loot tossed from the floats.

heard children cheering. Then the plane was rising again, heading back toward the Dillingham Airport.

Just as I thought I’d somehow missed the whole thing, however, the plane turned again and headed back into town. Once again it flew over my position, turned above the bay and aimed for the tower. Once again I heard children cheering.

On the off chance that there might be another encore, I began running. Past N&N Grocery, left, past the hardware store, left, past the bank, right, past Bristol Bay Campus

Kids hustle to collect treats during the parade.

Kids hustle to collect treats during the parade.

and Dillingham High School, right. There, at the far end of a long, fenced-in playground, stood the water tower. Inside the metal perimeter surged a herd of children, brandishing plastic grocery sacks already heavy with treats and colorful plastic balls.

I raced for the scene just as the plane swooped again in front of the tower and laid down another volley. Screaming, happy children sloshed through snow, ice and wet grass, grabbing for goodies on the ground. I huffed and puffed into position, and my photographic efforts were erratic and disappointing.

Then someone near me said the plane was coming back one more time.

And thus it was that I witnessed (and finally photographed) the last candy drop on one of the last days of the five-day, 56th annual celebration known as Beaver Roundup.

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Night lights: Spring brings eclipsing views

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Days are getting longer and nights are getting shorter, so this will be my last column before fall. The winter constellations Orion, Gemini, Taurus, Canis Major and Auriga with all their bright stars are now visible in the west, setting during the late evening. Leo with its bright star Regulus is speeding across the sky, thus I perceive Leo as the harbinger of spring. When it appears in the east winter’s end will soon be here, and when it reaches the western horizon, flowers are in full bloom and deciduous trees will have regained their leaves. In addition, the summer triangle comprised of the bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair reappears in the northeast.

Planets in the evening and all night: Saturn and Mars are visible all night long, forming a large triangle with red Arcturus. In early April, Mars is really close to Virgo’s Spica, and by month’s end it will retrograde quite a bit toward the west. Arcturus itself is the bottom star of Bootes, also commonly seen as an ice cream cone.

The full moon appears next to Mars on April 13 and 14 (the evening of the lunar eclipse) and next to Saturn on April 16.

Jupiter is visible near Gemini’s Castor and Pollux, from dusk on until long after midnight, farther in the west. It is so bright that it’s the first object we see. It is joined by the waxing first quarter moon April 5 and 6, and by the waxing crescent moon May 3.

Jupiter is the brightest wanderer in the sky because Venus rises together with the sun and will not be visible again until fall. However, since this is Alaska, you may spot it very low on the northeastern horizon around 2 a.m. during June and July.

Mercury, Uranus and Neptune rise with the sun, so that they can’t be seen against the bright daytime sky.

The Lyrid meteor shower (April 16 through 25) peaks in the early morning hours of April 22. The constellation Lyra with its bright star Vega is high above the southern horizon. As the meteors seem to emanate from that spot in the sky, look all around Lyra.

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Plugged In: New look — Find deals, quality in existing lenses

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Our recent suggestions about using older, high-end lenses with modern cameras apparently struck a chord for readers who asked for more information.

The advent of mirrorless compact-system cameras opens up more opportunities to mix and match many of the best older lenses from a variety of makers with modern digital cameras, using a variety of adapters. This often, though not always, results in improved image quality and lower costs. Here’s how and why.

In order for any lens to focus distant objects clearly, that lens must be able to achieve a specific minimum distance from the film or sensor, a distance that’s specific to each lens. If the rear of the lens can’t get close enough to the sensor, then sharp focus will be limited to very close subjects. That’s termed optical “infinity,” a focus distance that’s usually about 20 feet or less for most lenses, rather different than true infinity.

Because CSC bodies are so thin, there’s usually more than enough distance to use a mechanical adapter that properly spaces and mounts older, film-era and current dSLR lenses at a total length that allows sharp focus at optical infinity. That’s because those adapted lenses are designed for moving-mirror SLR cameras.

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Rings a bell — Good Friday Earthquake remembered with safety drills, bell peals

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Students in Jane Evenson’s kindergarten class at Soldotna Elementary School practice staying safe during an earthquake drill held Thursday on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake in Alaska.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Students in Jane Evenson’s kindergarten class at Soldotna Elementary School practice staying safe during an earthquake drill held Thursday on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake in Alaska.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Kids, let Dennis Shangin be a lesson in how not to react during an earthquake.

He was 6 at the time of the Good Friday quake March 27, 1964, playing outside his home in Perryville on the Alaska Peninsula.

“The only way I remember it is I was trying to run away from my mom,” said Shangin, of Soldotna. “She came out hollering so I started running. I thought she was mad at me. ‘I didn’t do it!’”

He remembers the ground starting to undulate, like long, slow waves rolling onto a sandy shore.

“I kept looking back and running and I’d fall down. She was just hollering at me, that’s why I kept running,” he said.

A much better example is that set by the kindergarteners in Jane Evenson’s class at Soldotna Elementary School, one of the many schools, workplaces and organizations statewide participating in the Great Alaska ShakeOut drill Thursday to commemorate the ’64 quake.

When the intercom chimed in during story time to announce the start of the drill, the students were prepared, having already practiced and discussed what to do if the earth started to move, or if they were told to pretend the earth was moving.

“When an earthquake happens we don’t plan for it so we’re going to pretend right now that we don’t know it’s going to happen,” Evenson said. “How are we going to be safe today? Where are we going to go?”

The answers were quick and enthusiastic: Get under a table! Away from the glass windows! Cover your head!

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Spring into action — Gardening club digs into growing season info

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Liz Lynch, of North Kenai, and Alison Cramer, of Kenai, discuss utilizing high and low tunnels — seen with a tomato growing under it — during a Get Ready for Spring event held by the Central Peninsula Garden Club on Saturday in Kenai.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Liz Lynch, of North Kenai, and Alison Cramer, of Kenai, discuss utilizing high and low tunnels — seen with a tomato growing under it — during a Get Ready for Spring event held by the Central Peninsula Garden Club on Saturday in Kenai.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With the days getting longer and warmer, it’s nearly time for the trowels and tools to come out for gardening season, and green thumbs planning for another year’s bounty from the garden and beautiful bouquets in the flower beds met this past weekend to share their knowledge with each other and those interested in learning how to grow their own.

“Spring is always a time when people start getting incredibly anxious to get their hands in the dirt,” said Marion Nelson, president of the Central Peninsula Garden Club, which held a Get Ready for Spring event at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center on Saturday, which was attended by several hundred people over the course of the day.

Nelson said the garden group felt something formal was in order to share how-to knowledge with people who become interesting in home gardening each season.

“Each spring it increases by 200 percent,” she said. “So we decided to move to a larger venue where people could take in more information easier.”

On Saturday there were dozens of stations, covering an array of gardening topics —starting seeds, composting, building raised beds, growing potatoes and organic gardening, just to name a few — with professionals at each station to discuss information and answer questions. Many also brought with them physical setups to demonstrate the gardening principles they were discussing.

“People interested in plating this season need to get their seeds growing, so a lot of the focus was how to get started now,” Nelson said.

The boom in new gardeners each year is a trend garden clubs across Alaska and the Lower 48 have been seeing in recent years.

“People are becoming more interested in growing their own food for cost savings, health and self-sustainability, a little like with the victory gardens of long ago,” she said, the latter point referring to gardens planted in private residences and public parks during World War I and II to reduce pressure on the public food supply.

“People also don’t want pesticides and chemicals on their food, so we’re seeing a resurgence in organic gardening, and how to store the food grown in various ways, like root cellars,” Nelson said.

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Almanac: Race to return with horses — quake delays delivery of new thoroughbreds

Photo courtesy of Kenai Peninsula College Photo Archive. Spectators watch horse racing during an early Soldotna Progress Days festival.

Photo courtesy of Kenai Peninsula College Photo Archive. Spectators watch horse racing during an early Soldotna Progress Days festival.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

Fifty years ago this month, Soldotna resident Larry Lancashire prepared to ride his daughter’s barrel-racing horse around a stream-filled, broken section of Turnagain Arm, not because it was a great idea, but because few other options existed. Precious cargo lay 15 or so miles away, and Lancashire was determined to collect it, come hell or high water.

He would receive a dose of both.

About two weeks earlier, on the afternoon of March 27, 1964, just two hours after Lancashire’s two new thoroughbred horses had left the Port of Seattle, the Good Friday Earthquake struck Southcentral Alaska. The massive temblor and its ensuing tidal waves had little effect on the barge itself, but they necessitated a direction change and greatly complicated Lancashire’s plans.

The barge’s original destination had been Seward, but that port had been decimated by a tidal wave. So the barge had made a course correction and aimed for Anchorage, where farrier and family friend Henry Ferguson was waiting. Ferguson picked up the horses, crated-up half-sisters that Lancashire hoped to employ in horse racing during the upcoming Progress Days celebration in Soldotna, and held them in his own corral until Lancashire informed him of his plan.

On the Anchorage side, Ferguson would drive his horse trailer down the damaged Seward Highway, crossing streams however he could and attempting to get as close as possible to Girdwood, where the tidal flats had been devastated by the surging earth and water. The flats were a jumble of mud and sand and flooded trees, of fractured roadbeds, broken bridges and twisted rails.

Photo courtesy of Kenai Peninsula College Photo Archive. The 1964 Good Friday earthquake destroyed this bridge over Twenty-Mile River on the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm. This is only one of the crossings Larry Lancashire had to make to bring his new horses home.

Photo courtesy of Kenai Peninsula College Photo Archive. The 1964 Good Friday earthquake destroyed this bridge over Twenty-Mile River on the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm. This is only one of the crossings Larry Lancashire had to make to bring his new horses home.

On the peninsula side, Lancashire, along with a trio of buddies, would drive a pair of large trucks bearing a small group of horses over Turnagain Pass and down to Ingram Creek, which marked the beginning of the flats and the end of passable roadway.

Lancashire and the others would ride over and through — depending on the extent of the destruction — each of more than a dozen streams. They would cross either highway or railway, whichever offered the easiest passage, until they reached Ferguson. Obstacles included Portage Creek and Glacier Creek, the Placer River and Twenty-Mile River. Then they would collect the two largely untamed thoroughbreds and guide them back to Ingram Creek, load them onto the trucks and haul them home.

Simple enough, in theory, if not in execution.

Back near Soldotna on the family homestead sat Lancashire’s teenage daughter, Abby (now Abby Ala), stewing somewhat because she was missing out on what her father would later term “a grand adventure.” Although one of the horses was meant for her — and although Larry’s focus on horses had everything to do with his youngest daughter’s love of everything equine — he had not allowed her to accompany him.

Photos courtesy of the Ala family. Larry Lancashire in 1962.

Photos courtesy of the Ala family. Larry Lancashire in 1962.

“They had to spend the night,” Ala said, “and there was no place for a girl to go to the bathroom and that situation, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Out of a desire to protect Abby, Larry forbade her from going.

“These thoroughbreds were wild, wild horses,” Ala said. “They had had very little — anything.”

Directing them or leading them through unfamiliar terrain would not be easy.

Ferguson had injected tranquilizer into the two thoroughbreds, and, according to the story Ala was told when her father returned home, “They were still dopey when he got them to the first river. And there was a railroad trestle, and they walked those stupid thoroughbreds across. After that, the horses had woken up, and they literally had to beat the horses to get them to cross the next river.”

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Filed under Almanac, earthquake, homesteaders, racing, rodeo

Drinking on the Last Frontier — Beer bubble not likely to burst

bh Growth-Small_HRBy Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

One of the things you can look forward to in the spring, at least if you are an obsessive craft beer fan like yours truly, is the release of the brewery statistics for the prior year. The numbers for 2013 have just been published by the Brewers Association, so let’s take a look.

First and foremost, the share of the total beer market that belongs to craft beers has continued to grow. Even discounting the quite popular “crafty” beers from the big three brewers, true craft beers captured 7.8 percent of the U.S. beer market by volume in 2013, up from 6.5 percent in 2012 and 4.4 percent in 2009. Obviously, craft brews still represent a very small segment of the total U.S. beer market, but this sort of steady, sustained growth is a very pleasant trend.

Turning to retail dollars, craft beers generated $14.3 billion in sales for 2013, which represents a 14.3 percent market share of the $100 billion U.S. beer market. As high-quality artisanal products, craft brews can command top dollar, making them even more important to overall beer sales than their 7.8 percent volume share would suggest. That $14.3 billion in sales represents a 20 percent growth over 2012. Growth rates like these make craft brewers smile and executives at AB-InBev and MillerCoors gnash their teeth and plan the release of more “crafty” beers in an effort to stem the tide.

The sheer number of new breweries and brewpubs continues to grow by leaps and bounds, as well. At the end of 2013 there were 2,822 breweries in the U.S., of which 2,768 were considered craft breweries. That’s a 15 percent increase over the number in 2012. In fact, there are now more breweries operating in the U.S. than at any time in our history, with hundreds more in the process of opening. We really are living in the Golden Age of American brewing!

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