Daily Archives: January 21, 2015

No dice on ice — Games to play out without winter elements

Redoubt Reporter file photos. The Peninsula Winter Games are usually accompanied by ice sculptures around town, which are a highlight of January for residents. This year, however, weather remained too warm for enough ice to form. This bear was a creation for the 2013 games.

Redoubt Reporter file photos. The Peninsula Winter Games are usually accompanied by ice sculptures around town, which are a highlight of January for residents. This year, however, weather remained too warm for enough ice to form. This bear was a creation for the 2013 games.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

There isn’t much beyond the calendar date to put the winter in the annual Peninsula Winter Games this year, but the event is going ahead as scheduled this weekend, even without some of its seasonal attractions.

Unless there is a dump of snow by Saturday, the ice bowling and kick sled races won’t be happening. And no matter what the weather brings by the end of the week, the ice sculptures that decorate businesses around town in advance of the games will not appear.

“We’re not going to have ice this year for the games themselves. The ice here locally that Rotary usually cuts is just not thick enough. It’s gaining but now it’s losing now with this heat we’re getting, this warm-up. So we won’t have the ice, but we’ll have all the other games,” said Tami Murray with the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

Unseasonable warm weather this winter has kept water flowing much later than usual, and even when it has gotten cold enough to form ice, a warm-up to above-freezing temperatures has followed.

According to the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014 was the planet’s hottest year on record. This was Alaska’s warmest year in as far back as weather data has been recorded, since 1918.

That’s been bad news for snowmachiners, skiers, dog mushers and, now, fans of the annual ice carvings.

“All the businesses are bummed, but they appreciate that we’re not going to just put it up and it melts the next day,” Murray said. “We could do that, too, if we bought ice, chances are it’s going to melt so that’s another reason we don’t want to put all that money into it and not make any money, and then it thaws.”

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In the business of community — Soldotna Chamber offers awards, appreciation

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ron and Kathy Sexton, of Trinity Greenhouse, are the 2014 Pioneers of the Year for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ron and Kathy Sexton, of Trinity Greenhouse, are the 2014 Pioneers of the Year for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Though the point of the 2014 Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Award presentations was to enumerate all that the winners do in the community, the recipients instead praised Soldotna for what it’s given them — a great place to call home.

“Thank you all very much, this is home and we give back to our home, so, thank you,” said Steve Horn, a professor at Kenai Peninsula College, who was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year at the banquet held Jan. 13 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Horn supports many local organizations and events, said chamber president Ryan Kapp, often showing his heart for local causes through people’s stomachs by manning the grill at community functions.

“His wife told us that community is like family to him, and that, quote, ‘He’s just a good guy.’ We couldn’t agree more,” Kapp said.

The recipient of the Commitment to Customer Service Award spent more a decade planning to move to the state. Since Eric Dahlman, manager of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Soldotna, had an opportunity to move up in 2011, he has made the most of it, getting out and enjoying the outdoors as much as he can, and taking every opportunity to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with his staff and customers.

The Pioneers of the Year found their opportunity to come to Soldotna in 1974, moving up from California with extended family and a general contracting- and camper-building business in tow. Ron and Kathy Sexton, owners of Trinity Greenhouse, have a long history of seizing opportunities, as well as cultivating their own. Alongside building custom homes and commercial buildings, Ron invented a quick-measure shortening dispenser. While in Seattle getting parts made for the device, he saw an ad for Sunglo greenhouses, and he and his brother became distributors in Alaska.

“They always had an interest in horticulture so it was a natural fit,” Kapp said. “They grew plants to show off the greenhouses and quickly realized the need for quality plants. One year later in the spring of ’77 they were open for business with a commercial-size greenhouse. It almost sounds like he had business ADD, doesn’t it?”

Sexton cheerfully conceded Kapp’s joke.

“Forty years has flown by,” Sexton said. “Our family is more than happy to have Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula as our home. It’s been a real pleasure, a great joy, a great adventure. … Nothing ventured, nothing gained is in a lot of my sayings I use, and it’s always onward and upward.”

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Book it indoors to keep cabin fever at bay — Libraries expand programming

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Dan Pascucci, dressed as a sea star, plays the guitar during a family concert put on by the Kenai Community Library on Saturday. Community interest and new buildings affording more space have led the Kenai and Soldotna libraries to increase their programming.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Dan Pascucci, dressed as a sea star, plays the guitar during a family concert put on by the Kenai Community Library on Saturday. Community interest and new buildings affording more space have led the Kenai and Soldotna libraries to increase their programming.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With sheets of ice dominating the landscape in place of the usual snow for winter recreation, some outdoors enthusiasts are spending more time indoors, and local libraries have stepped up to fill the activity void.

“Our programming has definitely increased this winter,” said Veronica Croteau, adult program coordinator at the Kenai Community Library.

While there are year-round staples, such as author lectures and genealogy meetings, Croteau said that some of the new and more popular events at the library have been the ones focusing on things people can make or do at home.

“We started doing DIY, do it yourself programs a few months ago and a lot of people have been really interested in attending, to learn and try new things,” she said.

Simple cheese-making and cooking sourdough pancakes were popular events, and Croteau said that an upcoming activity Jan. 22 is expected to be well attended, too.

“It will be a natural oils/natural makeup workshop. People can come and learn how to make lip balm, hand lotion and body lotion with natural oil, and like all these programs they’ll take home the recipe and samples they make,” she said.

The other well-attended DIY programs have been those related to sewing and knitting, she said.

“The sewing workshops have been really, really popular. We are surprised by the numbers we have been getting. We have 15 people for each class and usually five to six on a waiting list,” she said.

Hosting these programs is about more than giving people something to do for an hour. Croteau said it also ties into having people use the library to further their knowledge and interests in learning.

“People aren’t just learning new things, they’re also able to check out books or use online resources to learn more about these interests, so it makes sense to use the library as a hub for all of this, she said.

And it’s not just adults they are trying to draw in. Several of the library’s programs also appeal to children.

“I think it is important to draw in families to spend time together. Our family concert series lets people come hear music, and we have a family game time each month where we put out a ton of games and families can come in and play together,” she said.

The Soldotna Public Library has also been experiencing an uptick in users, according to librarian Rachel Nash. Part of that is attributed to the library’s youth programming.

“Since we moved in the new building, we’ve been a happening place,” she said. “Especially our Toddler Story Time. It’s very well attended. The earlier you start them on books, the better they do in life. Wanting them to learn to love books, we have board books, picture books and chapter books.”

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View from Out West — In remote Alaska, the postman always delivers

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. Clark Fair sorts packages at the Dillingham Post Office. In Alaska communities off the road system, mail service plays a vital role in connecting residents to the outside world.

Photos courtesy of Clark Fair. Clark Fair sorts packages at the Dillingham Post Office. In Alaska communities off the road system, mail service plays a vital role in connecting residents to the outside world.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

Living in a community remote from Alaska’s highway system means no Winnebagos and fewer tourists, much higher gas prices ($6.72/gallon in late December), a strong sense of isolation and community, and that getting in or out of town can be expensive, and weather and ice are the great determinants of travel.

This remoteness also means that the mail and all other cargo must arrive either by air or by sea. In the summer, when the ice departs, occasional barges haul cargo to and from public docks. And throughout the year, cargo planes receive and deliver freight to and from local airports. But the post office is the heart of this system, and in Dillingham its workers are, as such, the most visible employees in town.

In Dillingham, all the letters, all the magazines and catalogs, and most of the parcels funnel through a single entity — the United States Postal Service. And for seven months in the latter half on 2014, I was been an employee of the Dillingham Post Office, helping to send and deliver thousands of pounds of mail each day in the eye of a swirling postal storm.

If I were to suggest to newcomers a great way to learn about this community — and perhaps any community — I could recommend no method better than employment at the post office. Because Dillingham (like most, if not all, remote Alaska communities) has no home delivery service, nearly everyone within the city limits (and often beyond) shows up in the lobby at least once.

Mail clerks see names and faces, which they connect to box numbers. They know who receives the most catalogs, who orders the most parcels through Amazon.com, who neglects to collect the mail from jam-packed boxes, and who purchases the most money orders. They keep this and other such information confidential, of course, but they do know.

Given enough time, postal clerks also begin to piece together community histories — who is (or was) related to whom, how many generations certain families have lived in the area, the names of newcomers arriving in town to fill transient positions at the local hospital or the courthouse or the schools. They hear the gossip and the politics, the commercial fishing reports and the weather forecasts, the news of the day and the brewing controversies.

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Plugged In: Rarefied views — Statewide photo exhibit shows off peninsula talent

Illustration 1: “Sadie,” by Linda Smogor, of Homer, was awarded Best of Show in the annual “Rarefied Light” 2014 statewide art photography exhibit, currently on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College.

Illustration 1: “Sadie,” by Linda Smogor, of Homer, was awarded Best of Show in the annual “Rarefied Light” 2014 statewide art photography exhibit, currently on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College.

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Fine art photography has thrived on the Kenai Peninsula for many years, and that’s been again confirmed by the works selected for exhibition in Rarefied Light 2014, the annual statewide, juried photography exhibit now on display at Kenai Peninsula College’s Gary L. Freeburg Gallery.

Each year, Rarefied Light’s primary exhibition opens at either the Anchorage Museum or the Contemporary Art Gallery on D Street in Anchorage. The show then travels to Fairbanks and Soldotna, with KPC the only nonurban venue. That’s fitting, because KPC offered one of the first digital arts degree programs in the U.S.

Rarefied Light 2014 received mixed praise from the Anchorage paper’s arts critic, who alleged that the show’s selections too closely mirrored the juror’s own work, portraits of one woman facing the camera. Personally, I believe that criticism is unfair because this show has a very broad range of styles and participants.

Inevitably, of course, the selections in a show mirror a juror’s own preference about what makes a good photograph. Otherwise, the juror would not be making similar images herself. As with all art, most juried shows tend to reflect current fads, which come and go. A really good juror can see beyond fads and their own style and value a broad variety of work.

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