Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dirty deeds — Mud run presents obstacles to runners, cleanliness

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

When community race organizers wish for weather, they usually hope for mild temperatures and dry skies. On Saturday, Kamichia Spisak was happy to see rain.

“I had someone call me this morning and ask if we were still doing the Mud Run. I said, ‘Of course we are. This is the perfect weather for the mud run.’ We could have used more rain,” said Spisak, with Elite Health and Fitness in North Kenai.

Spisak was addressing a crowd of 45 racers ready to run, slip, slide, squish, hop, crawl and — for a few, anyway — belly flop their way through the second annual five-kilometer community Mud Run.

Racers met at Elite from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. to register and gear up in costumes or their preference of I-don’t-care-if-this-gets-dirty attire. By 11:30 the morning’s rain showers had let up, but remnants were evident in the puddles pock marking the parking lot and dirt race trail.

The race kicked off at noon, with SpongeBob Square Pants, Marilyn Monroe, some Rastafarians, a Disco king, an ’80s throwback and other runners heading out under a balloon arch to a live rendition of “Dirty White Boy(s) — and girls” by guest band Danger Pig.

Runners headed up the easement on the side of the highway to Nikiski Fire Station 1 and back to the fitness club, negotiating a gauntlet of obstacles meant to test their balance and their laundry detergent’s effectiveness.

They belly-crawled under a cargo net, hopped foot-to-foot through a tire field, windmilled across a balance beam and back again before coming to the finale at the finish line – a tunnel leading to a 4-foot dirt pile, which served as the launching pad to the 10- by-20-foot mud pit.

It was here the race was won or lost. The top three fastest finishers in each division — men, women and juniors — received prizes for their efforts, as did the best costume, but all other awards came as a result of the pit.

There were somersaults, flying leaps, a cartwheel, belly flops, back end flops, tackles, mud slinging and one case of all-out sisterly mud wrestling.

David Martin won best performance in the mud pit for an expertly executed flying belly flop. Sharon Miller, dressed as SpongeBob, took best entrance honors for her somersault splat. The cleanest finisher — probably the toughest title to nab — went to Jessica Summer.

The fastest finisher for the men was Terry Vrabec, in 26:17. The women’s winner was Lori Manion at 30:50. The fastest junior was Shayla Hudkins, 34:41.

The prize for most fans went to a group of five fishnet-draped runners. Best costume went to Rustin Hitchcock for his disco attire. And the award for dirtiest finisher went to Brandon Anderson, with help from his wife, Ashley, who tackled him and sent him sprawling face first into the muck.

“The mud pit brings out the crazy side of people,” Spisak said.

A group of four women from Soldotna ended up down and dirty in the pit — dirtier than some intended.

“They kept pushing me in,” said Haylee Swanson, who entered the race with her mom, Darcy Swanson; Becky Hansen; and Angela Massey.

“How could you not? People pay good money for that mud,” Hansen said. “I always wanted a mud bath.”

The mud was a specially prepared blend of sifted dirt and water from the Nikiski Fire Department.

“It was fun. I like to play in puddles and the mud and do the obstacles,” said Kim Jordan, of Soldotna. “It seems like all my life I’ve been told not to splash in the puddles. This is my chance to hit every one of them.”

Jordan was gunning for the best costume prize, with a sparkly white halter dress over her running clothes and a giant lopsided “beauty” mark drawn onto her face.

“It’s Marilyn Monroe’s workout attire,” she said.

“My friend did it last year in a banana suit and won best costume, so I thought I could get it this year because she’s pregnant and couldn’t compete.”

Spisak said this year’s race exceeded her expectations, with double the participation of last year.

“There are a lot of this type of races — five K’s. I wanted to do something a little more family friendly so that people could bring their kids to participate,” Spisak said.

The mud was meant to make things more interesting. It definitely drew interest on its own.

“The mud — are you kidding me?” said Hansen, when asked why she entered the race.

River slough leaves rafters swimming

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The Slough of No Return off the main stem of the upper Kenai River almost lived up to its sinister name as a group of rafters ended up dunked and separated from one of their rafts Friday afternoon.

Anthony Murray, a fifth-year guide from Soldotna with Alaska Rivers Company in Cooper Landing, was taking a group of nine passengers on a float down the upper river Friday when he saw the aftermath of an accident at about 3:15 p.m. just above river mile 72.

He was paddling in the main stem of the Kenai about a mile and a half downriver of the Russian River confluence when he saw a group of five to seven people onshore who had clearly just been in the water. They had one 12-foot inflatable double-ended raft with them, but were missing another raft.

From what Murray saw, he thinks the group must have paddled their two rafts down the Slough of No Return, which branches left (if heading downstream) off the Kenai just downriver from Darcy’s Slough, across from Ray’s Beach.

It’s not a side trip Murray recommends.

“It’s got a very inviting, open entrance to it but then it kind of bottlenecks and turns. You could fit maybe a narrow craft down there but right now there is a cottonwood that’s lying across the entire width of it,” Murray said.

His guess is the rafts hit the tree.

“We floated by and saw everyone standing up on the shore,” he said. “I could see an upright raft on the tree and when I went down a little bit farther I could see an upside-down raft.”

One raft apparently flipped and got flushed under the tree, while the passengers were able to wrestle the other raft to shore.

Since no one still seemed to be in the water in need of rescuing, Murray paddled over to the flipped raft.

“We grabbed it and hauled it onto a beach and left it there for them,” he said.

The group piled into the raft they still had with them and floated downstream to their other raft, then pulled onshore to pick it up. Murray didn’t get a chance to talk to the rafters, but they did indicate they were all OK. There was one child with the party. Murray didn’t know if they had all been wearing life jackets.

Central Emergency Services said Saturday they hadn’t been called to respond to the accident. The weather that afternoon was cloudy with occasional light rain and temperatures in the mid-50s.

Murray said he doesn’t know why boaters would venture into the slough.

“Just to see a different part of the river, I guess,” he said.

The tree — a full-sized cottonwood about 3 feet in diameter — has been lying across the slough for at least two years now.

“There was a catamaran that got stuck underneath there last year and a drift boat got stuck there,” he said.

There aren’t any signs warning boaters of what lies ahead if they venture into the slough.

“The biggest danger is because that tree is there,” he said. “It’s a fairly deep channel. You would not want to be in the water in that because you would have a hard time getting out before the tree. At that point life jackets work against you and pin you against the tree.”

Murray estimates the channel at 9 to 12 feet across, but the tree makes the width a moot point. The bottleneck and turn in the channel makes the tree all the more dangerous because it’s hidden from view at the mouth of the slough.

“I’ve seen other people go down there,” he said. “I’ve seen other boats getting pulled over the grass. If you see it in time you can try to get over to the side and pull your boat up and out, but you just don’t have that much time to react.”

The moral for Murray is, if you don’t know, don’t go.

“If you’re going to head onto the water, call one of local rafting companies and get an update on where to go,” he said. “Or, if you don’t know, go where you see the majority of other boats going. Stick to where most of the water goes, typically that’s the safest route.”

Wearing a life jacket and bringing extra warm clothes in a dry bag are also important, Murray said.

Luckily, the incident didn’t end up being anything more severe than a cautionary tale and added excitement for Murray’s passengers.

“Yeah, it was something different,” he said. “That doesn’t happen every day. It was good to see everyone made it out.”

Voting in-person absentee easier than it might sound — Early ballots available in Kenai, Soldotna

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Did you vote today?

Did you know it was even an option?

It is, with in-person absentee voting locations open at the Borough Building in Soldotna and Kenai City Hall operated by the Alaska Division of Elections.

Yes, “in-person absentee” sounds like a temporal impossibility, or at least an oxymoron. All it means is you’ll be absent from the polls come election day, so you’re voting early. The Division of Elections also offers by-mail absentee voting, but ballots for Tuesday’s primary election should have been requested by now.

Absentee voting is open to anyone. It’s not like being absent from work – you don’t need an excuse to do it.

“They don’t have to tell me why they need to vote early at all,” said Kari Mohn, the absentee poll worker at Kenai City Hall. “It can be anyone. They don’t need a reason.”

The Kenai location has ballots for the entire Kenai Peninsula Borough, except Hope and Sunrise. At the Borough Building, they have ballots for everywhere in Alaska.

“We’re one of the only stations in the area that has ballots for the entire 40 districts (in the state). So if somebody is here from Bethel for work they can come in here and vote,” said Teri Birchfield, who staffs the Borough Building absentee polls with her mother, Nita Douthit, and Lori Seymour.

A visitor from Bethel, or Bettles, or anywhere else in Alaska, could still vote in the Kenai Peninsula Borough on Tuesday, but if they don’t vote at the Soldotna absentee location they will only be able to vote a partial ballot. With the primary election, that means a visitor won’t be able to vote for their home district’s representative, just the ballot measures, if they don’t vote at the Soldotna absentee site.

“It helps alleviate as many partial counts as would happen,” Birchfield said. “If you come here we can give you your actual ballot and it will be a full count.”

Absentee voting on the central peninsula is available 15 working days before any election — including Tuesday’s primary, the municipal election in October and the general election in November. Absentee polls are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in Kenai and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Borough Building, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Borough Building. The Soldotna absentee site will also be open on election day.

Mohn has been staffing absentee polling for five years in Kenai and said it’s usually snowbirds heading back down the highway that take advantage of early voting.

“That’s not the case so much this year,” she said. “Folks say they’re going to be working.”
Mohn has had 10 to 15 people a day vote in Kenai, which is about usual, she said. It’s been mostly police and fire department personnel and North Slope workers who will be on shift next week, and college kids heading off to school.

“And there are people who always vote absentee,” she said. “Anyone who needs a little bit more help or enjoys that it’s quieter are welcome to come and vote,” she said.

The same ID requirements are in effect for absentee voting as for voting on Tuesday. Since Alaska has a closed primary, voters need to know what they’re registered as — Republican, Democrat, Undeclared, etc. — to determine which ballot they get.

If voters don’t know, they don’t need to worry. Absentee poll workers can look it up. They can also help with anything else election-related, like registering to vote or requesting by-mail absentee ballots for upcoming elections.

They’re happy to do so, in fact.

“It makes the day go if you’re busy,” Birchfield said. “That’s what we’re here for. If we’re busy it shows people are thinking about the community.”

The Soldotna site has had an average of 30 to 40 voters a day.

“It’s a little slow to start with, but we’ve built every day, as we generally do,” Birchfield said Monday.

“A lot of the time August is a tough one. People are still in summer mode until September when people start thinking of elections,” she said.

If it’s slow, poll workers find ways to pass the time.

“We just try to do quick projects so that when voters come in we’re ready to help them,” Birchfield said. “I liken us to a garage sale sometimes, like everyone comes at once or nobody comes.”

Mohn reads or writes thank-you notes. Birchfield has books or crocheting to fall back on. Seymour is a little more ambitious.

“She’s the scrubbies for washing dishes,” Birchfield said, indicating the basket of brightly colored puffs Seymour has been working on. “Nobody else will make them, they’re too hard.”

On Monday, Tom Rhyner, of Kenai, stopped in Conference Room A to vote at the Soldotna location. He works 10 days on, four off at the Russian River weir for Fish and Game, and he’ll be gone come Tuesday.

During the winter he works for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, which has its main office in the Borough Building. Rhyner was in checking on paperwork with the district Monday.

“I just happened to be in the building so I saw the signs. I couldn’t remember which day the election was on,” he said.

He’s glad he did. Working for Fish and Game, there are two ballot measures of particular interest to him — aerial hunting and the clean water initiative. If he hadn’t voted early, he wouldn’t have voted at all.

“A lot of people work two weeks on and two off. If it falls on their week of work there’s no other way for them to vote, really,” he said.

For more information on absentee voting, and for forms to do so, visit:

Young Soldotna man follows spirited calling

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

As Stephen Powell paces the grounds of Farnsworth Park in Soldotna, he looks like he was plucked straight from the mall or a movie theater: Jeans and a T-shirt. Brown oxford shoes. He’s outgoing, greeting whomever he sees and repeating their names to commit them to memory. He speaks excitedly and forcefully, but flashes an easy smile. Clean-shaven with neatly trimmed light brown hair. Nice-looking to the point of being unremarkable. Nothing to attract attention — until he gets a microphone in his hand.

“Come to Jesus tonight! Get healed in your body! Get healed in your soul! If you need Jesus in your life, you need to repent for your sin!”

This delivered in a locomotive cadence: brisk and rhythmic, monotone yet swelling, punctuated with arm-flung gestures and grimaces that could be agony or ecstasy.

“If anyone within the sound of my voice, if you need to accept Jesus as your lord, if you need healing, if you want to get cleansed in the blood of Jesus, cleansed in the soul and the body, then come up here now.”

The volume of Powell’s voice as he warms up to his sermon is easily enough to make him heard through park. The mic and amplifier he uses, plugged into a portable generator, fling his voice beyond the boundaries of the grass and parking lot into the surrounding Birch Street neighborhood, a block off the Sterling Highway.

“Jesus is the savior of your soul! He’s your maker! He’s your father! He’s all of it! He’s everything!”

Jesus pronounced as two syllables, with emphases on “Je.”

“The devil has rights over you through sin. He does. The Bible says he has the legal right to come over you, because of sin. But Jesus said he would set us free.”

Pretty heavy stuff for a sunny summer evening, when sharing a park with kids on a swing set, teenagers rolling through on bikes and skateboards, and a 1-year-old’s birthday party.

“You’re not promised tomorrow! You’re not promised the next day! You’re not promised next month! What will you tell God when you stand before him?

“We claim this city for your glory, God. This city is not for Satan!”

Powell is 22 years old.

He grew up south of Soldotna with his two siblings, the kids of Dennis and Jenice Powell. He attended Soldotna Church of God, where his mother has been a pianist for 28 years. He played sports, hung out with friends and graduated from Skyview High School.

And somewhere in there, he became “on fire for Jesus.”

Powell says he first came to Jesus when he was 14 attending a youth conference in Los Angeles.
“There were thousands of kids all worshiping the Lord, and it had an impact on me,” he said.

He became increasingly active in his church youth group and led a youth ministry at his high school. But it wasn’t until 17 or 18 that he really turned his life over. He was at a low point, he said, after a disastrous relationship cost him his friends, his mentor in the church and his hope for the future.

“I went through my struggles. I went through some really hard times. It left me in a place where I had nobody but the Lord. He used that because when you don’t have anything but the Lord you tend to cleave to him more than you normally would,” Powell said.

It was at that point, in 2004, when he gave himself completely to Jesus, he said.

“I started seeking him with all my heart.”

Everything he did, everything he thought was focused on his relationship with God, he said. He stayed up nights praying, spent entire days reading the Bible. He took three months off work and sequestered himself in his room at his parents’ house, praying, fasting and studying the Bible.

Powell says he was visited by Jesus.

“Jesus anointed me with oil in my room. It is so real I feel it dripping off my ears onto my shoulders. I can feel it in my hair. It’s that tangible,” he said.

Another visitation last February made him feel as though Jesus had inhabited his body and released several gifts inside him, Powell said. He has numerous other accounts of witnessing angels and other supernatural and divine phenomenon.

“Like the wind blowing when I pray. There would be no wind all day. And sometimes it would blow into the room,” he said.

Between 2004 and now he became convinced God wanted him to spread the Gospel to others in Soldotna, and beyond.

“Out of your relationship with Jesus you should minister,” he said. “That’s your place of power. It’s a product of a changed life. That’s where God flows through the most.”

He’s dedicated his life to it and has founded the Peninsula Healing Campaign to carry out his mission. It’s an open-air ministry where he brings the Gospel to people outside the walls of a church. For a 12-day stretch in early August that meant reserving Soldotna Creek Park and then Farnsworth Park every evening, then coming out and delivering a sermon to whomever may hear him — whether it was a dozen people who came specifically for him, park-goers not sure what to make of his performance, or just his mother and grandmother, there to support him.

“We just find places where we can preach it publicly,” Powell said. “In the winter we want to have Sunday church meetings. The Lord told us to start a church, so we’re doing that. … God just wants a harvest of souls on the peninsula.”

His ministry has a particular emphasis on young people. He made a point of talking to any teenagers in Farnsworth Park whenever he was out preaching, and praying with them if they let him. Toward the end of his campaign Powell counted eight teenagers he had saved during the course of his park sermons, including one who said he had to go to jail the next day, so what could Jesus do for him? Powell said he told the boy to pray and accept Jesus into his life. The next day, the boy came back and said he got a call saying his jail time wasn’t going to be enforced, Powell said.

“We’re seeing miracles out here,” he said. “Not just physical miracles. He would never have heard the Gospel if he hadn’t been out in the park.”

Even if Powell couldn’t engage kids directly, he still tried to reach them with his sermon, talking at them with his mic about the power of God and pitfalls of drugs.

“There is no high like the most high. All drugs are a substitute for Jesus. If you’re on drugs tonight you need to find Jesus and you can stay lit for all eternity.”

The Peninsula Healing Campaign has been a difficult road for Powell. Nearing the end of 12 straight days of his energetic preaching, Powell was hoarse at the end of each night. He said Jesus also works healing miracles through him, leaving him able to feel infirmities in those around him. He’s felt Jesus work through him to cure deafness and alleviate back pain, he said.

“We’ve had barrenness. People were trying to get pregnant for years and couldn’t. We laid hands on them and 15 minutes later they were pregnant. I don’t know how that works, but it just works,” Powell said.

He says he’s been rewarded for his efforts. His wife has been his biggest reward. After rededicating himself to God as a teenager, he felt compelled to switch churches in fall 2004. When he did, he met Amanda, now 20. The two were engaged in July 2005 and married in June 2006. They have a child together.

“I had terrible exp-eriences with relationships, with women and stuff. He gave me my wife. The Lord just totally blessed me with that. I was so hurt by what happened, I didn’t ever want to get married,” Powell said. “… It was a gift from God. God gave me my wife. It’s a real testament to his power to save someone.”

Powell finds work when he feels compelled by God to do so. Otherwise he relies on donations and help from his supporters.

“Me and my wife are living on this faith,” he said. “We’re just starting in seed form but we’re not waiting for all the stuff we need before we start preaching. God will provide. We survive by prayer. We survive by the Lord.”

Powell’s mother, Jenice, said she is proud of her son and she and her husband support him 100 percent.

“Since he was 16 he had a passion for the Lord when the Lord started working on his soul. The Lord did a lot of things in his life. He kind of swayed a little bit for a while there, but he came back over and he made up his mind — it was everything or nothing for God. He told me he wasn’t going to be on the fence,” she said.

She said she and her husband have been concerned at times about their son, especially during the three-month stretch where he confined himself to his room praying. Now she doesn’t question it.

“We started to worry a little bit. But my husband and I came to the conclusion that, how can we say that God does not tell him something when he says he does because he prays much more than we do,” she said. “He says that God does, and he truly lives the word of God.”

Jenice said she wasn’t surprised when her son forged such a personal relationship with Jesus. In a way, he seemed marked for it from birth.

When she was six months pregnant with Powell, she became ill and spent the next three months in the hospital “fighting life or death for him,” she said. The doctors couldn’t explain why the baby was having trouble, but couldn’t induce delivery early because his lungs weren’t strong enough, she said.

“He was born 10 days before his due date, the biggest of my three kids. His lungs even today are stronger than anyone I know, out of all my kids,” she said. “I believe the enemy tried to steal him at that young age because he knew the call that was on his life.”

Jenice said she knows Powell’s goals in ministry will make for a sacrificial life, but she knows he is willing to do what God wants him to do.

“It has just been an adventure,” she said. “I can’t wait to come out and listen to him. I want to see what will happen in his life.”

Even in his role as spiritual leader, Powell still has some of the tendencies of a young man — including being embarrassed by his mother’s praise.

“Don’t exalt me too much, Mom,” he said. “I’m just a boy in love with Jesus.”

For more information on Powell and his ministry, visit

Tiny but tough — Pop Warner instills fundamentals of football, fun

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

In Tiny Mites football practice last week, 5-year-old Joshua Tree became pie-eyed when one of the coaches handed him the ball and told him to run it into the line during a blocking and tackling drill. His eyes told the story: He knew other players would be trying to hit him. And they did.

With the help of a block, Joshua ducked his Soldotna Saints helmet and eluded the first defender, but the second one plowed into his left side and dragged him to the wet grass. As he crumpled, he lost his grip on the ball, which dropped beneath him loose until he was able to lock his legs around it and retain possession.

About 30 feet away, Joshua’s mom, Julie Tree, winced a little as her son was hit, but smiled as he bounced up and continued the drill.

It was all part of the learning process. All part of the largely volunteer-run organization known as Pop Warner football, which involves athletes from ages 5 to 16 learning and enjoying the gridiron game.

Pop Warner, a nationwide program named for legendary college coach Glenn Scobie “Pop” Warner, got its start in 1929 as a means to quell the growing vandalism problem in Philadelphia and involve youth in healthy activities.

On the central Kenai Peninsula, Pop Warner got its start 12 years ago as the result of efforts of a group of local parents. Early on, the Soldotna team was known as the 49ers, then the Eagles and finally the Saints. Kenai developed a team of its own, named the Falcons. Currently, all levels of Pop Warner are based in Soldotna, and over the years peninsula Pop Warner teams have consistently fed skilled players onto the state champion squads at Kenai Central and Soldotna high schools.

The Tiny Mites are made up of 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds weighing no more than 75 pounds. Pop Warner enforces a strict age and weight matrix to ensure players are evenly balanced in size.
Julie Tree said Joshua has “had a couple days where it’s kinda rough. Like today, he’s, ‘I’m tired. I don’t wanna play,’ but now he’s fine. Once he gets going, he’s good to go. He’s had definitely more good days than bad.”

Although she’s pleased Pop Warner mandates that every player gets to play in every game, she wants to make sure he doesn’t overdo it and turn against the sport.

“I’m fine if he only plays 10 plays. I mean, he’s 5. A lot of these other kids are 6 and 7,” she said.
At the end of this season, Tree said she’ll let Joshua decide if he wants to continue.

“If he doesn’t want to do it next year, he’s not going to have to do it,” she said. “But I don’t really want him to quit (this year). He’s had a couple of rough days. There’s a couple of times he told me, ‘I don’t want to play anymore,’ you know. I’m trying to tell him, ‘It’s OK. We’ll get through it.’ I can’t let him quit right now, ’cause that’s what he’s going to remember: two weeks of practice and nothing else.”

Generally, he is excited to play.

“We get home and he’s tackling us. He’s tackling the couch,” she said.

“His biggest goal is getting tough enough to beat up Daddy. He’s trying to build muscle so he can beat Daddy, so he can win when they’re wrestling,” she said.

Out on the practice field, about a half-dozen volunteers and coaches, under head coach Lane Johnson, are moving the players through a variety of drills. Two of the more familiar faces are Allan Miller, former high school running and skiing coach, and high school football coach Sarge Truesdell.

Early in practice, Miller was running the players through warm-ups — a quick jog around the practice field, some stretching to loosen up. Later, he helped the other coaches run the football drills.

“Having never taught anything below fifth grade, this is a real stretch (for me), coaching a group of kids at levels I don’t understand in a sport I don’t understand on multiple levels,” Miller said.

Miller credits Truesdell, Soldotna High School head coach Galen Brantley and others with supplying the football expertise. All have players on the team: Mackenzie Miller, 7; Jersey Truesdell, 6; and Galen Brantley Jr., 6.

Miller said Mackenzie, who also participates in KPHA hockey and Boys and Girls Club soccer, decided he wanted to play football after watching his older brother, Xander, play last year. Xander, 9, plays at the next level, the Mighty Mites.

In the Truesdell family, football is a natural fit.

“Well, Jersey’s the kind of kid that just grew up with football, with me being a coach at SoHi, and he had an extra pair of shoulder pads before he was old enough to put ’em on,” Truesdell said.

Still, Truesdell he said he was “pretty skeptical” when a Tiny Mites team was formed.
“I didn’t start playing football until ninth grade,” Truesdell said. “And I went on to a college scholarship and stuff, so I didn’t feel like there was a tremendous amount of merit in the little-kids stuff.

“But (Jersey) really wanted to do it, and so I said, ‘All right, if you really want to do it, I’ll put you in it.’ And he really enjoyed it, even last year as a 5-year-old, and it’s the hugest gap there will ever be when there’s 7-year-olds on the same field as 5-year-olds — a tremendous amount of difference.

“And he got his butt kicked but loved it, you know, and never not wanted to go to practice, enjoyed all the games, and so it was great,” Truesdell said.

Truesdell and Miller praised Pop Warner football, and sports in general, as benefiting their sons.

“Research sure supports the importance of an active childhood as the basis of developing healthy lifestyle habits that can control things like obesity, heart disease, et cetera. I also think it’s important to develop friendships with a broad group of peers in a wide variety of situations,” Miller said.

“Mackenzie’s involvement in sports has certainly been a very big component of his developing coordination and confidence.”

Truesdell said that, more than other team sports, football requires an unusual amount of focus for kids only 5 to 7 years old.

“It takes 11 guys lining up, correctly, sitting still, until one voice sounds the cadence, and then they are all expected to run in a certain direction and accomplish a play,” he said.

Out on the practice field, the sounds of instruction, cheering and encouragement were helping make sure that was exactly what would happen come game time.

Blast from the past  — Propane explosion rocked early Soldotna

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

The first blast shattered one wall of the propane company’s garage and office building and set the rest ablaze. The adjacent home of company manager, Paul Frickey, also went up in flames.
The second blast destroyed a tanker truck containing a thousand gallons of liquefied petroleum gas, blew Soldotna Fire Chief Harold Jackson off his feet 80 feet away and rocked the entire city of Soldotna with its concussive force.

Caught in a low-lying area between their respective homes nearby, Verona Wilson and Vera Howarth were caught by the ignition of the heavier-than-air gas and were burned on the legs, hands and face.

Students at Soldotna Elementary School, more than half a mile distant, had just been excused for the day by the 3:30 p.m. bell and were spilling out onto the playground when they heard the blast and saw the giant plume of black smoke fill the afternoon sky behind the leafless trees on the horizon.

It was Nov. 25, 1968, and less than a quarter of a mile northeast along the Sterling Highway, Al Hershberger was at his television and electronics shop when everything blew.

“I was standing by the door,” Hershberger said. “My back was turned when it actually blew. And I immediately turned around and saw everything blowing up down there.

“I turned around and I saw the hood of what turned out to be a pickup flying across the road. And I saw big pieces of wood. Those turned out to be the garage door when I went over and looked at it. I saw those flying clear across the road.”

The problem began that afternoon when a local delivery driver for the Petrolane business — located ironically on what is now the grounds of the Central Emergency Services station in Soldotna — pulled in with his small truck and connected his tank to the fuel line of the big tanker. After he had filled his own tank with propane, according to Hershberger, he “forgot to unhook the hose and drove away and tore the valve off the truck.”

“And all that propane leaked out (of the big tank), and it was lying on the ground,” he said.
Hershberger said he believes the driver immediately knew what he had done because he turned around and came back to warn people in the area. Verona Wilson’s husband, Don, and others hurried to shut off pilot lights and anything that might create ignition. Everyone attempted to move away from the greatest concentration of the invisible fuel.

No one is really sure what triggered the initial blast, Hershberger said, but the fire from the first certainly set off the second, and then the sky filled with flames and smoke.

The heat from the conflagration reached such an intensity that it melted power lines and knocked out electricity from Kasilof north to the outskirts of Kenai and east all the way to Sterling.

Windows were blown out of nearby buildings, two 700-gallon tanks of propane were destroyed, and in the aftermath of the main explosions nearly 20 80-gallon tanks occasionally detonated like small bombs.

Volunteer firefighters, first from Soldotna and then Kenai, began rushing to the scene within 10 minutes and were able to save Wilson’s Soldotna Store with jets of water from high-pressure hoses.

Remarkably, no one died in all the fiery chaos that followed, and Wilson and Howarth’s burns were the only injuries. Perhaps even more remarkably, quick and risky work by the emergency response teams prevented the scene from becoming much, much worse.

After volunteer firefighters had sprayed a second large tanker, Kenai Fire Chief Frank Wisecarver crawled beneath it and closed open valves to cut off the flow of fuel. Nearby were five additional 1,000-gallon tanks and an even larger tank containing 8,000 gallons.

It took several hours to quell the flames and begin to assess all the damage. Emergency teams labored well into the early winter evening. In the end, Wilson and Howarth spent time in a hospital, Howarth for the longer period since her burns were more severe.

The Frickey home was obliterated and Marion Frickey visited the scene the next day, searching for any valuables that might have escaped the fire. Hershberger remembered that she “found a bunch of melted coins, a handful of melted coins,” and very little else, he said.

Two days later, on Nov. 27, the local twice-weekly newspaper, The Cheechako News, featured a banner headline in type two inches high that proclaimed, “BLAST RAZES GAS FACILITY.” Photographs in that issue and the one of Nov. 29 showed buildings in flames, the silhouettes of firefighters at work, vehicles on fire, and plenty of smoldering remnants.

Early December issues featured advertisements for benefit dinners and activities to help the homeless Frickeys. Months later, a trial was avoided when Howarth and Wilson settled out of court with the Petrolane Alaska Gas Services Company.

Remember when…
Do you have memories of this event to share? Write the Redoubt Reporter at, post them to our blog at, or mail them to us at 155 Smith Way, Suite 205C, Soldotna, AK 99669. We’ll print comments in upcoming editions of the paper.

Arts and Entertainment week of Aug. 20

  • Art Works in Soldotna has photography by Bill Heath on display through August.
  • Kaladi Brothers in Soldotna has fiber art by Connie Goltz on display through August.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has art by Laura Faeo and Regina McAbee on display through August.
  • The Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai has “Altered Threads,” a fiber arts display by Kenai Peninsula College students, on display through August.

  • Contributing scholar Shane Lopez will discuss the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center’s exhibit on the first- and second-edition journals of explorer Capt. James Cook at 1 p.m. at the center. Call 283-1991.
  • Sidecar, a three-man improv troupe from New York, and a local workshop group will hold an information practice performance at 9 p.m. at the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai. Audiences are welcome and a free-will donation will be taken.

  • The Kenai Writers Group will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room at the Kenai Community Library.
  • Indie folk artist Jaime Michaels will perform a benefit concert for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center at 7 p.m. Thursday. All proceeds from tickets sales will be donated to the food bank. Tickets are $10 general admission, or 10 pounds of food. For more information and listening samples from Jaime Michaels, visit
  • Sidecar (see Wednesday’s listing) will perform live shows with different content at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai. Tickets are $10 for the first show and $5 for any additional show. Early shows are family friendly, later shows may by PG-13. Tickets are available at Charlotte’s in Kenai, River City Books in Soldotna and at the door.

  • Janice Chumley, of the Cooperative Extension Service, will speak about beneficial insects and pest control species on the Kenai Peninsula at 1 p.m. at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Call 283-1991.
  • Sidecar will perform at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai. (See Thursday’s listing.)

The Kenai Community Book Club will meet to discuss “The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office”, by Dave Lindorff, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kenai Community Library.

  • The Riverside in Soldotna has live DJ music every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m.

Live music
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has bluegrass music by Them Other Shuckers from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays.
  • Hooligan’s Saloon has acoustic music by Travis B. and Sean at 10 p.m. Thursday and rock covers by 9-Spine at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Kaladi Brothers in Soldotna has violin music from Emily Grossman on Friday and guitar and vocals by Tyler Schlung on Saturday.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has acoustic classic rock by the Free Beer Band at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has acoustic music by Adam and Sonny tonight.
  • Mykel’s in Soldotna has acoustic music by Dave Unruh from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Place in Nikiski had bluegrass music by Them Other Shuckers at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has rock covers by The Mabrey Brothers Band at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic music at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, acoustic music by Scott Merry at 6:30 p.m. Friday, acoustic folk, blues and Hawaiian music by Mike Morgan at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and a folk jam at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

  • 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at the Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
  • 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at the .406 in Kenai.
  • 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 8:30 p.m. Friday at the J-Bar-B in Kasilof.
  • 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Maverick in Soldotna.

  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has “Guitar Hero” at 9 p.m. Thursdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has pool night at 9 p.m. Fridays.

Editorial — Focus on the issue, the future of fish

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s primary election, the rhetoric surrounding Ballot Measure 4 – the Clean Water Initiative — has veered off on tangents that take away from the point of the measure: protecting Alaska’s salmon.

The anti-4 spearhead group, Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown, continue to use their namesake fallacy to scare people into voting no.

They say the measure threatens all mining in the state, but the best evidence they can come up with to support that charge is the initiative’s language doesn’t specifically exempt “new facilities at existing mining operations” from the water quality regulations proposed by the measure.

What the measure does say is the regulations would not apply to existing mines. They would not apply to mines less than 640 acres. They would not apply to mining in areas where water doesn’t serve as salmon habitat or is used for drinking.

The initiative would affect new, large-scale mines, such as Pebble — and with good reason.
Pebble would be the largest open-pit sulfide mine on the planet. There has never been a mine like Pebble that hasn’t polluted surrounding waters.

A proposed 750-foot-high, 4.3-mile wide tailings dam would hold back a 14-mile lake of toxic waste in an area prone to severe seismic activity.

All that straddling the headwaters of Bristol Bay — home to the world’s largest salmon fishery.
The anti-Clean Water groups say new regulations aren’t needed, that the current regulatory process and protections are enough. What they don’t like to acknowledge is regulations were drastically altered under Gov. Frank Murkowski. Through an executive order, Murkowski allowed mixing zones, which lets mining companies discharge toxins into salmon streams under the theory that pollutants will dilute enough to not harm fish.

That argument simply isn’t supported by science. Toxins common in mining processes are bio-accumulative, meaning they build up in organisms like salmon, no mater how much water they’re dumped into.

Ballot Measure 4 would reinstate the prohibitions on mixing zones that were in place when existing mines were permitted in Alaska.

Voting no on 4 isn’t an attack against all mining. It isn’t anti-development. It isn’t even a game over for Pebble. It’s simply a way to help protect a valuable, sustainable industry – the salmon fishery.

The potential harm of Pebble is too great to take a wait and see approach. The state’s regulatory process has lost its teeth when it comes to safeguarding salmon. Waiting until damage is done to fix this situation is irresponsible and unconscionable.

Let’s take the opportunity to clean up this problem Tuesday, before we have an even bigger mess on our hands.

Guest editorial — Objectivity should trump advocacy in predator control ballot measure

Whether you favor or oppose predator control, with or without aerial shooting, the state’s juggling of this political hot potato warrants concern about its respect for democratic process and scientific integrity.

Twice before, Alaskans have voted against aerial shooting of “predators.” Twice before, the state has derided the vote as “ballot box biology.”

As voting on a new initiative approaches, Board of Game members have toured Alaska communities arguing that aerial shooting is essential for reducing predators enough to achieve target moose and caribou harvests. Intensive management, they claim, is the only strategy justified by the scientific evidence.

Really? Biologically, do predator numbers actually have to be drastically reduced to restore balance with their prey? Is aerial hunting essential to achieving this? Politically, are Board of Game presentations and literature educational or propaganda that illegally lobbies against the Ballot Measure 2?

True education explains how key statistics were derived. It gives a hearing to all sides of an issue. The Board of Game does neither. It ignores most concerns of the National Academy of Sciences in its report “Wolves, Bears and Their Prey in Alaska,” as well as more recent information on predator-prey ecology – information suggesting that intensive management could backfire, adversely affecting moose and caribou.

1. The Board of Game proposes restoring moose and caribou numbers to their habitat’s carrying capacity (“K”). Is that wise? Populations near K are especially vulnerable to disease, malnutrition and predation; sustainable yield is low. Health and yield are maximized near 50 percent K. So why isn’t 50 percent K the board’s target?

2. The board claimed that predators take up to 80 percent of all moose and caribou dying.
Under what conditions? How much is nonhunting mortality governed by predator abundance versus environmental conditions (like snow depth)?

Isn’t 80 percent a worst-case scenario? What’s the average percent eaten by predators? Under what circumstances?

How many of the prey eaten are killed by predators, rather than by malnutrition, winter severity, etc?

3. Of prey killed by predators, how many are “walking carrion” that would have died anyway? What proportion of prey spared from predation would be available for hunter harvest? Implying anything near 100 percent is comic book biology.

4. Most game is harvested where access is easy — near a road, trail, river or lake. Where access is poor, decimating predators might backfire. High predator populations in remote areas might drive prey toward areas easily accessed by hunters.

5. Prey moving from place to place to avoid predators causes the prey animals to “graze” their home range more evenly, enhancing its productivity. Prey that stays in small areas may over-graze and suffer from more contagious disease.

6. Predators focus on easy – ill, injured or old – prey more often than on the prime adults, especially males, that most hunters prefer. Predation may partly counteract harvest impacts, keeping age-sex ratios closer to optimum than harvest alone does.

7. Snowshoe hare and rodents compete with moose for willow stems, a food especially crucial during winter. These competitors sometimes girdle so much willow that they limit the supply for moose. Wolf predation on hares and rodents could increase food supply for moose.

8. Willow are also a major source of protein for moose during spring when new calves are produced. Protein production requires nitrogen. At lower latitudes, plants get most of their nitrogen from air. This is far less effective in Alaska’s cold, wet soils. Willow can, however, get nitrogen from decaying salmon scraps and dung left by bears and wolves. Drastically reducing predator or salmon numbers could impair future moose productivity.

9. Optimum ratios of predators to prey will vary situationally. The Board of Game should tailor management tactics to local conditions rather than employing a one size fits all strategy across vast areas of the state.

10. Bear populations are far more vulnerable than wolf populations to over-harvest. Yet, The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is not closely monitoring bear numbers in predator-control zones, much less in noncontrol zones. True sustained yield predator management requires careful, detailed monitoring of all major factors affecting prey and predator populations before, during and after predator reduction periods. Only thus can the benefits of predator control be maximized while its impacts – e.g., on hunting and on hundreds of millions of dollars of ecotourism income — are minimized.

These are but a few of the issues that make predator-prey experts skeptical that “intensive management” really optimizes hunter harvest.

So long as the state fails to address these and other controversial points, its truths will remain half-truths where advocacy trumps objectivity, and propaganda masquerades as education. Worse, its battle against so-called “ballot box biology” will remain more fundamentally a battle against democracy — against having government policies guided by the public rather than by politicians and special interest groups.

Dr. Stephen Stringham earned his mater of science degree at the University of Alaska studying moose and his doctorate degree studying bears. He has researched predator-prey relations, including a focus on maximizing population viability in ungulates and bears by optimizing age-sex ratios. He is the author of five books on Alaska’s wildlife.

Kaladi Bros. keeps coffee, remodels much else

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

At Kaladi Brothers Coffee in Soldotna, some things change — the floor, paint, square footage, and now an entirely new store — and some things stay the same — the coffee, and the regulars who come in day after day to drink it.

Russ Bacon, of Kasilof, has been coming to Kaladi’s on Kobuk Street “since I was 4 years old, probably,” he said. Definitely since the end of high school four years ago, when more often than not he spent fourth period in the coffee shop instead of the classroom. Since then he’s been a daily customer, leaving him with as informed an opinion on the many changes as any designer.
There’s a lot to comment on at Kaladi’s these days, with an extensive remodel recently completed at the Kobuk store and a new branch opening soon in the parking lot of the Peninsula Center Mall on the Sterling Highway a few blocks away.

Bacon hasn’t seen the new location yet, but has had daily exposure to the changes in the Kobuk store, which include redoing the floors and the coffee counter, adding a sandwich counter offering food from Odie’s Deli most afternoons, repainting the walls and adding two new alcoves with windows to let in natural light.

“I love it,” he said. “The floor is probably my favorite part. … I like the renovations that they’re doing a lot.”

Joe Deveaux has been a regular times three since Kaladi’s opened in Soldotna in the early 1990s. Since he’s now working on Kalifornsky Beach Road, though, he’s had to cut back his habit.

“Now I only come in once a day. I used to come in morning, noon and night,” he said.

Logging that much time and caffeine earns him the opportunity to be opinionated.

“I like the remodel, but they need new furniture in here,” he said, adding that the chairs are OK but the tables need to be replaced. “They’re doing a nice job in here.”

The new windowed alcoves — the fishbowl, as Deveaux calls it — is his favorite part, although on Friday he wasn’t able to enjoy it.

“I like the bright room out there, but somebody’s sitting at our table,” he said.
Instead he was sitting at a table closer to the corner wood stove with Jeanette Pietro, her brother, Mel Perna, visiting from Wisconsin, and Ann and Argan Hoogland, from Holland.
Perna is a much more infrequent visitor to Kaladi’s, only coming by when he’s in town to visit family.

“Seeing this sudden change, not having been here, it looks good,” Perna said. “But they should have added a bathroom.”

Perna said he finds the store to be welcoming and comfortable, even if you occasionally find yourself waiting in line for the inevitable result of coffee consumption.

“It’s a very friendly place,” Perna said. “I think they have a good group of customers here.”
“Yeah, we’re all lunatics,” Deveaux added.

He didn’t qualify the statement, whether it referred to personalities or preferences for daily routines.

“It’s a good habit to have,” he said of his visits to Kaladi’s. He wouldn’t go so far as to say he’s addicted to the store, just the merchandise. These days it’s an Americano every time he comes in.

“It used to be mochas, two or three a day. But that got to be too expensive so I had to break that addiction. And I will call that an addiction,” he said.

Kaladi store on highway will cater to different crowd

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Tucked away on a side street out of view from the Sterling Highway, the Kaladi Brothers Coffee store in Soldotna is more a hangout and fuel stop for locals than it is a spot for drivers to stop on their way through town.

And that’s fine. The store stays busy in the summer and busy enough in the winter without drawing much just-passing-through clientele.

Kaladi’s management realizes the benefits of leaving well enough alone, but also figures the “secret” of the coffee shop’s presence in Soldotna is too good to be kept.

So they’re opening a new store on the Sterling Highway later this week or early next week. And they’re keeping the old one on Kobuk Street.

Since May the company has been remodeling part of the space previously occupied by the Great Alaska Pizza Company across the parking lot from the Peninsula Center Mall along the Sterling Highway in Soldotna. What was once a large open space — home to Godfather’s Pizza before Great Alaska moved in — has been split in two. Subway occupies the other half, after moving out of the mall this spring.

Amy White, manager of Soldotna Kaladi Brothers, said Kaladi’s wasn’t necessarily looking to expand on the central Kenai Peninsula. The space was just too good to pass up.

“They just had a vacancy in the building. I think that they talked to Subway about possibly making this into two spaces and it just worked out because we don’t need all that space,” White said. “We didn’t start out looking to open a new store. A place became available that seemed like a good fit.”

White said she thinks the area can support two stores, even through they are mere blocks from each other.

“The other location is very local. It’s back off the road. If you don’t know where it is, you don’t know where it is,” she said. “They thought this would add a new element and bring in some new people.”

The new store’s main asset rumbles along outside the door.

“This is the main road. This is how you have to drive. So many people come down here from Anchorage or up from Homer or just driving to work that might not be aware of our other store,” White said.

The store has a little less space than the newly remodeled Kaladi’s on Kobuk, or about the same seating as the original store did before it was expanded, White said. It has an open-air, industrial feel above with a high, exposed ceiling, and banks of tall, triple-paned windows letting in light.

Art deco yellow-glass lights hang down and shine pools of color on the glossy finish of the sealed and polished cement floor. Most walls are cream colored and the furniture is minimalist modern black, with a pop of color coming from a red accent wall behind the wood-faced coffee bar opposite the windows.

“I think it’ll have a different feel to it. It’ll just be a cool other choice,” White said.
She said the store will display local art, just like the Kobuk store does. There are no plans for hosting live music, but that may change in the future.

The biggest difference in layout or style between the two stores is a community room inset near the bar that can be reserved for parties or meetings.

Other than that, the new store should feel familiar to patrons of the old, or any other, Kaladi’s location.

“It’s still Kaladi Brothers,” White said. “We still have the same drinks and standards and products.”

White expects business along the highway to mirror business in the neighborhood – busy in the summer and slower, but still adequate, in the winter.

“I think we’ll get some people over from the other store and we’ll definitely get some new people. It’s an interesting, fun, exciting thing for me. It’s not my risk, necessarily, but I want it to do as well as I think it can do,” she said.

Putting signs up on the building in the middle of last week has already drawn in potential customers.

“Especially since we put the signs up we’ve been getting quite a few,” White said. “There were two people from Anchorage who didn’t know we had a store here pop in.”

White plans to hold a dual opening for the new store and the remodeled original location on Kobuk in the near future.

Back on their turf, the regulars at the Kobuk store are curious to see how the new site turns out, but not so much so that they plan to relocate.

“I think it’s a good thing they expanded, but I’m still probably going to go to this one. It’s my favorite,” said Russ Bacon, of Kasilof.

“That one’s for the tourists, I hear,” said Joe Deveaux. “This one’s for us.”

No jokes aside — Everything is fair game for visiting comedy improvisational troupe

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

For a style of performance where agreement — always backing up a fellow actor in whatever reality they’re trying to create — is the first, last and everything-in-between rule, there sure is a lot of conflict.

In one scene, donning the white gloves of a Japanese commuter train attendant gives the wearer the cultural right to do whatever he wants, from pushing people onto trains to stealing their wallets to punching them in the face.

In another, mystical elves are fired as department store greeters who couldn’t make the transition to prison attendants.

Then there was the guy who told his buddies he was late for dinner because he had almost been murdered — well, a guy in a suit reminiscent of “American Psycho” walked by him on the subway platform, if that counts as a near-death experience.

That’s the thing about improv — anything can happen.

The three-man improv troupe Sidecar is back in Kenai from New York performing a series of shows and teaching workshops.

Alden Ford, originally of Nikiski, Matt Fisher and Justin Tyler were in Kenai last July doing shows, workshops and helping with the Kenai Performers summer drama camp. This year they’re back to perform and help others learn improv.

“It’s a style of performance that a lot of people aren’t familiar with,” Ford said.

Even some seasoned performers aren’t comf-ortable with it because they’re used to being one mostly predeveloped character at a time, not having to constantly create new ones and redefine new scenes drawing from their own experiences and perspectives.

“(In improv) they can be a character to the extent they want to be a character and play things kind of real,” he said. “It’s hard not to play yourself to some extent. It’s a lot more difficult to be in a scene and make everything up from nowhere.”

It’s a useful skill for actors to learn.

“It reminds you that when you’re on stage you always need to be reacting, and reacting realistically,” Ford said. “You end up using your own reactions to inform your character.”
Tyler said improv teaches thinking on your feet, being open to impulses and taking control of any inner censorship that may keep you from being outgoing — which all instills greater confidence.

For that, improv is great — if daunting — for novices.

“Being comfortable standing up in front of people and just talking is the hardest thing,” Tyler said.

Sidecar starts its shows simply doing that. They introduce themselves and the show. Then they talk a little about whatever is going on with them, from momentous to mundane. After asking for a word from the audience, one of them tells a story inspired by the word about themselves or something that happened to them, while the other two usually use it as fodder to tease the one telling the story.

It’s as though the audience is eavesdropping on a conversation between three guys who have known and mocked each other for a long time.

“We start every set with coming out and being very open and honest with each other. And making fun of each other,” Tyler said.

“Especially me,” Ford interjected.

“Well, sometimes it works out that way, when you say the most ridiculous things,” Tyler continued.

“Improv is very close to people harassing each other,” Fisher said.

“Especially our improv. We’re seconds away from grabbing each other by the lapels and shaking,” Tyler said.

Sidecar started out in improv and has branched into sketch comedy stemming from their improv work.

“We were overwhelmed with genius ideas and decided to write them down,” Fisher said, facetiously.

(It should be noted that most everything Fisher says has a grain of current or impending facetiousness to it. The same for Tyler — unless he was actually serious about his request to be described in this article as holding a chalice of wine while being interviewed.)

Coming from New York to perform in Kenai is a welcome change of pace for Sidecar. Though their workshop and performance schedule keeps them busy while here, they’re focusing just on that, not jumping between their other jobs and various side projects.

“It makes such a huge difference to be able to do this one thing, and it’s really nice,” Ford said.
Performing for aud-iences that may be new to improv is also appealing. Coming from New York, improv is ubiquitous to the point where performances are scrutinized for pushing the envelope, rather than just whether it’s a good performance that people enjoyed.

“You’re expected to do something that’s outside the box or on the edge. It’s kind of nice to do something more straightforward,” Ford said. “… It’s nice to perform for people who don’t have as many expectations about what long-from improvisation is.”

Funny, for one thing. Unexpected. A learning experience for both sides of the stage.

“As performers it’s difficult to be yourself and not make jokes and play to the audience,” Ford said of what improv actors learn to do. “And it’s always surprising as an audience member that it’s interesting to watch.”

Sidecar will perform at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai. Tickets are $10 for the first show and $5 for any other performance by showing a ticket stub. The material in each show is different. Later shows may contain more adult content. Audiences also are welcome at the workshop today at 9 p.m. for a free-will donation. For more information about Sidecar, visit their Web site,, which contains some mature material.