Daily Archives: April 1, 2009

Big shots — Eruption photographers find their work appearing far and wide

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Just like any good news photographer, David Wartinbee didn’t waste time celebrating the good luck that put him in the right place at the right time with a camera in his hand as a spectacular mushroom cloud bloomed over Mount Redoubt on Saturday afternoon. He lifted his camera to his eye and started shooting, and didn’t stop until the eruption subsided.

Then he went straight to his computer and filed his images. Later that evening they started showing up in media venues across the state, and soon, the nation and world.

All in a day’s work for an intrepid roving news photographer.

Except Wartinbee isn’t a news photographer. He doesn’t work for a media company or wire service; doesn’t have a press pass or journalism credentials. He’s a biology professor at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus with a recreational interest in photography whose front porch in Soldotna faces out across Cook Inlet, and who happened to be pulling into his driveway just when the mountain started to go off.

But through the power of digital cameras and the Internet, and a world that’s becoming insatiable for instantaneous imagery, Wartinbee and other central peninsula residents were deputized as newshounds that day, by virtue of having cameras, having something spectacular to point them at, and being willing to share. Continue reading


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Filed under Mount Redoubt, photography, volcanoes

Got it covered — Musicians chip in to help Veronica’s pay to play

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

When Diane Hooper and Kathy Miller bought Veronica’s in Kenai in November, they vowed to revive the quirky coffee shop’s tradition of live music performances in part as a service to customers, and as a way to support and promote local musicians.

Little did they know they’d be contributing to the likes of Paul McCartney, as well.

A new song

Music and Veronica’s go together like the sweet, golden cornbread that ubiquitously accompanies soup and sandwich orders. No matter the shape, size, consistency or flavor, the place wouldn’t be the same without it.

The coffee shop itself is musical, with the squeaks, creaks, sighs and whispers of a 90-year-old, added-on-to wooden building weathering the perpetual wind atop the Kenai River mouth bluff in Old Town Kenai. Add to that the percussion of a bustling kitchen, squealing espresso machine and furniture wobbling for balance against the worn-in floor and it’s a symphony in need of a melody.

That’s one of the reasons Hooper and Miller were drawn to buy it.

“It’s a magical place at night with the snow falling and the lights on and the music. And now I can be part of it every day,” Hooper said.

Previous owners Rebecca Lambourn and Stan Coleman had cut back on live music because of declining revenue. Music nights weren’t big moneymakers but Lambourn hired musicians anyway, if for no other reason than her own enjoyment and dedication to the local arts community. But as fewer and fewer customers came out to listen last fall, she was less and less inclined to continue the practice.

When Hooper and Miller took over, they kept open mic nights going, on Fridays, and reinstituted live music Saturdays. But with all the costs involved in taking over a business, Hooper said she and Miller didn’t have money to spare. They needed the music nights to pay for themselves in order to continue.

That prospect became more daunting with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers on the scene, sending letters and making phone calls insisting Veronica’s pay for a blanket performance license if they were to host live music nights, or even play CDs over the speakers. Continue reading

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Filed under entertainment, music

Pursed strings — Prospective recipients of stimulus say short-term funds do good in long term

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Immediately after Gov. Sarah Palin announced March 18 that she wouldn’t request nearly a third of the federal stimulus money slated for Alaska — about $288 million of $931 million — because there were strings attached, agencies and organizations that stood to receive funding started pulling strings of their own.

Palin later said the money was still on the table, and that she wanted the Legislature to review proposed stimulus spending to avoid leaving the state with extra costs from programs or jobs created with the two-year money. Lobbying began nearly as soon as Palin’s announcement was made to convince legislators that the money would be put to good use without creating bills that would come due when the federal dollars ran out.

On the Kenai Peninsula, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and Kenai Peninsula Food Bank say a short-term infusion of funding can be spent in a way that provides long-term benefits without recurring costs.

“We’re mostly interested in putting roots into the ground to help us be a stronger district, and not add things,” said Assistant Superintendent Steve Atwater, who will become superintendent at the end of June.

The district has a list of proposed uses for the $5 million it stands to receive in stimulus money. Only one proposal would create a new position — a stimulus funds coordinator who would track implementation of the funding and document compliance with federal regulations on the how the money is spent. But even that job would be advertised and hired as a two-year position that would end when the money does, said Melody Douglas, chief financial officer for the district. Continue reading

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Filed under education, Gov. Sarah Palin, government

Environmental concern over Drift River spill potential grows

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

A tank farm at the base of Mount Redoubt containing 6.2 million gallons of crude continued to raise concerns this week, while officials formed a unified command to react if volcanoic ash and melting glacial ice sent floods down the Drift River plain.

Fearing risk of an oil spill in Cook Inlet during this period of eruptions, Cook Inletkeeper Director Bob Shavelson went to the Coast Guard’s boss at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Shavelson’s letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged her to order Cook Inlet Pipeline Co., to remove the 6.2 million gallons of oil at the Drift River Terminal at the base of the erupting Mt. Redoubt volcano until conditions improve.

“We are writing to ask you to take swift action to protect Alaska fisheries and the countless people they support from the threat of a major oil spill in Cook Inlet, Alaska,” Shavelson wrote. He described the precarious situation of the terminal’s location at the base of Mount Redoubt with the volcano erupting, sending mud, water and debris flowing down the Drift River. Continue reading

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Filed under industry, Mount Redoubt, volcanoes

Resurrecting history — Church in need of long-awaited repairs

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

When parishioner Dorothy Gray stands in the nave of Kenai’s Russian Orthodox Church and narrates for a group of tourists the story of the church, she usually keeps to a set chronology that begins with visiting missionaries in the late 1700s and progresses to the resident priest of the present day.

Gray highlights her narrative with tales of the sometimes “despicable” Russian fur traders, with the spiritual and practical benefits brought to the area by the priests, and with the costs of construction and many of the sacred icons inside the church. When she finishes with her story and answers questions, she hopes tourists will be inspired to drop off donations as they head out the door.

Although the church sits in Old Town Kenai and is one of the city’s primary tourist attractions, it still functions as an active place of worship, and the money is crucial to keeping it going and in good shape. Donations alone, however, are not going to be enough for the work that is now necessary to keep the church intact. Continue reading

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Filed under Almanac, history, Kenai

Art Seen: Drinking in changing landscapes

Alaskans love to take pictures. We are surrounded by such awe-striking visuals we just about can’t help ourselves. And if responses to photo albums on Facebook are any indication, folks who don’t live here are especially wowed by the images, even if they are not National Geographic material or art pieces in their own right.

It’s wonderful that a place like Kaladi Brothers is available for the many who’d like to share their collections with the community, and it’s a boon for their business, as well, bringing in additional customers and ensuring art on the walls. Photography exhibits grace the walls of both the old and the new stores this month, and although it is mostly traditional fare, there are a few pieces that strike my fancy as being on the more unusual side.

Genevieve Klebba has been shooting photography for many years now and is thrilled to be in the digital age. She was dubious, at first, but now thoroughly enjoys the quick results and ability to edit and print the images herself. The exhibit in the Kobuk shop is titled, “This Season That We Call Winter,” and her most interesting piece is one of the wintriest. Continue reading

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Filed under art, photography

Arts and Entertainment week of April 1


  • Artists Without Borders in the 4D Building in Soldotna has “Unhinged,” works done on a door or window, in conjunction with a group show by local artists, through April.
  • Art Works in Soldotna has egg tempera paintings by Andy Hehnlin on display.
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has photography by Tony Lewis on display through April.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has “This Season That We Call Winter,” a photography exhibition by Genevieve Klebba, on display.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has artwork by Melody Lee Gleichman on display through April.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has the a Kenai Peninsula School District visual arts celebration with work by ninth- through 12th-graders on display through April.
  • 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. Continue reading

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Filed under calendar, entertainment