Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spurred on — Climbers test luck on 3rd volcano summit

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

At 11,070 feet, Mount Spurr stands about a thousand feet higher than Redoubt and Iliamna, and because reaching it would require traveling a greater distance inland from the coast, Craig Barnard, Rory Stark and Tyler Johnson changed their usual modus operandi.

They decided to charter a plane from Merrill Field in Anchorage to Tyonek, take mountain bikes to roll up the maze of logging roads leading out of town and up the Chak- achatna River drainage toward the volcano, and to give themselves at least five days for the round trip.

On a Friday morning in early June, they boarded a single-engine Cessna Skywagon piloted by Spernak Air, and after a short flight they were unpacking gear in Tyonek and preparing to maneuver about a 40-mile maze of backcountry roads that would lead them up along the Chakachatna to its confluence with Straight Creek.

“It was crazy,” said Barnard, the least experienced of the three riders. “These guys were flying. It was all I could do to keep up. And I was hot for every break. I was, ‘Oh, a break! Come on! This is supposed to be fun, guys.’”

Near the confluence, they stashed their bikes and began following the creek, crossing and re-crossing its chilly waters to avoid prying their way through thick tangles of alders. Once, Barnard, who said the water sometimes moved so fast he could feel himself starting to float, tumbled into the stream.

“I bit it. I was on all fours,” he said. “Your legs are numb all day long. And then just in time to start feeling your legs and stuff, you plunge into the river again.”

Eventually, after camping for a night on a gravel bar to avoid all the bears in the area, they reached the source of Straight Creek: a swath of ice they called a “dry glacier” because its dense main vein was topped by a thick carpet of rocky debris.

Johnson called the up-and-down, boulder-strewn traverse of the glacier “tedious.” Stark said it was “just like a moonscape.” But, after day of such travel and a night on the glacier, they exited onto a southeastern flank of the mountain, and it was here that their real troubles began.

The clouds moved in. The light flattened out. Warmer air began to deteriorate the snow.

At about 8,000 feet, according to Johnson, they “got up onto the ridge, and, man, it was super steep. But it was the only way we could see to connect our route to the summit. We’re like 3,000 feet from the summit, and the snow at that point was so soft where you could stick your ski pole all the way up to the handle. Like 4 feet of mush.”

Stark painted an even more severe picture: “There was a cornice on one side of this ridge and then a really steep drop with crevasses running down the other side. This snow, it was just ready to rip. I mean, real sort of unstable snow conditions.

“I pretty much figured if we tried to traverse that ridge, we’d break a slide on it and go into one of the crevasses. And if you stayed high enough to be away from that, then you’d be hanging over the cornice on the other side, which is a cliff. It was pretty untenable.”

They sent Barnard out ahead for a closer look, and even though he said he was “disappointed” to turn back, he knew it was the right call.

“It was such a good decision to turn around,” he said. “Their vibe was totally right.”

They descended to 6,000 feet and camped.

On Monday, they worked down the full length of the dry glacier and camped along Straight Creek. On Tuesday, they reached their bicycles and trundled back into Tyonek, where they called Spernak Air. By Tuesday night they were all at home.

Johnson said they were all disappointed by failing to summit, but they decided to take a practical perspective: “The (other two) trips were so perfect that it was kind of nice to throw in three-quarters of a mountain in there. Nobody’s that lucky.”

Johnson added that he had no regrets.

“They were the cheapest trips I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding,” he said.

In the months to come, the trio would have many more rewards but also more difficulties.

In October, Johnson, Stark and Stark’s brother, Will, flew into Katmandu in the Himalayas and climbed then skied down Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth-highest peak.

Just before the end of the year, Stark and Johnson were skiing high on Silvertip Mountain on the Kenai Peninsula when Stark, for the second time in his life, was swept away by an avalanche.

“It was horrible,” he said. “I broke my femur in three places, and my tibia was just shattered. For about 6 inches it was just bone fragments. And there was a piece of bone coming through my leg, and I lost a lot of blood, so I had to have a transfusion.”

Stark was rescued by the 210th Rescue Squadron of the Air National Guard. In November, he had surgery to remove 20 screws and some metal plates from his leg. Sometime after this Christmas, he said, he hopes to start skiing again.

In March 2008, Johnson and a pair of other Anchorage racers finished second in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic. And in July, Johnson and Barnard won the summer version of the race. They plan to compete in the winter classic again this March.

“It was mainly for the adventure,” said Johnson, speaking chiefly of the volcano trips but also about the men’s shared love of the outdoor experience. “It’s not just the mountains and the skiing. That’s fun, but I think for all three of us it’s just the adventure of going out and doing something different, and rolling the dice. If it works it works. If it doesn’t it doesn’t.”

Let’s make a deal — More people shopping bargains leads to healthy retail weekend

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Shoppers’ concern about rising bills, worry over the fate of their investments or overall fear of a national economic recession were no match for the allure of two-for-one sales and special deals over the weekend as retailers kicked off the holiday shopping season.

Saturday and “Black Friday,” as the day after Thanksgiving has come to be known, drew in more shoppers than some retailers expected on the central Kenai Peninsula.

“Actually, our Friday and Saturday blew last year out of the water, so we’re very happy,” said Liz Schmitt, owner of Northcountry Fair in Soldotna. “We’re anticipating a good Christmas season. Usually those are our two big kickoff days.”

Schmitt said she wasn’t expecting any growth in sales this holiday shopping season compared to last year. Economic concerns like higher gasoline, heating and electricity costs, as well as trepidation over the national economy, were expected to prompt shoppers to tighten their grips on wallets. Sales have been slow overall this year, Schmitt said, but with gas prices back down under $3 a gallon this week, the allure of special deals enticed people to get out and spend.

“From the predictions in the paper, we were expecting it to be mostly just flat, the same as last year,” Schmitt said. “We were very happy, as we always are, to see our local customers.”

Local retailers may actually be benefiting from economic concerns — especially gas prices and the hikes in shipping costs that go with them — if they motivate shoppers to look for gifts in town, rather than heading to Anchorage or ordering off the Internet.

“We’re excited about people shopping local,” said Steve Beeson, owner of Beemun’s in Soldotna. “We’re the ones that are here for the individual and we do our best to have good prices and a decent selection as best as we can.”

The weekend after Thanksgiving typically isn’t the busiest at Beemun’s — not compared to the week before Christmas — but sales were still strong.

“It was a good for us,” Beeson said. “I think we’re tending to see more people stay local, which we appreciate as far as businesses go.”

Fred Meyer in Soldotna generally draws a considerable crowd Thanksgiving weekend with its annual sock sales, as well as other discounts. This year was better than last.

“I have been at this particular location almost five years now, and we had people at all our doors,” said Ron Delaney, manager.

The store typically gets a line of 50 to 75 shoppers waiting for the main entrance to open Friday. This year there were 250 queued up.

“By 5:30 my parking lot was full. I just had a couple carts left over. This place was nuts. But everyone seemed to be in their happy 5 a.m. shopping mode. For the most part they came in with a plan and left with a cartload,” Delaney said.

He said the number of customers was a surprise to him.

“We always plan very optimistically, but we’re ahead of where we thought we were going to be,” Delaney said. “I don’t think Alaskans are too worried about that ‘r’ word. It’s been a wonderful season so far.”

In the parking lot of Fred Meyer on Friday, several shoppers said they were planning on regulating their spending this season. But it may not be in ways that impact Thanksgiving weekend retail figures, especially if more people are drawn out to sales events.

“I’d say we’re all reining back a little bit. The way the year’s going with gas prices being so high at the beginning of the year and the stock market down, everybody’s concerned with what the economy is doing,” said Peter Barrett, of Kenai.

Tara Dunbar, of Soldotna, said she wasn’t going to buy as much as she normally would in her holiday shopping, and she paid close attention to prices and sales out of concern for the economy.

“I’m just nervous about it,” she said. “It hasn’t affected me that much, I’m just being a little extra cautious.”

On the other hand, Dunbar’s concern led her to be more focused on good deals, which prompted her to take part in early morning Black Friday shopping for the first time ever.

Judy Dixon, of Nikiski, was bargain hunting Friday, but said she’d pay full price for something if she thought she wouldn’t be able to get it otherwise.

“Living up here for so long, if you want something, you buy it when you see it or else you’re out of luck,” Dixon said.

In general, though, Dixon said she probably spent less than half this year what she did the day after Thanksgiving last year.

“Just the way the economy is, you think about maybe being a little more careful,” she said.

Anna Johns and Coline Kivi, of Nikiski, said they were cutting back on their spending for adults and focusing more on things people need, rather than frivolous purchases.

“For me, I don’t think it’s the economy so much as just trying to get Christmas back to reality,” Johns said. “It seems like we went so crazy for a little while. In the long run, we’ll have to cut back some.”

But there is one factor that may torpedo her plan.

“She’s a new grandma,” Kivi said.

Kids are also the reason Peter and LuAnn Barrett may go over their budget. They have three boys, now grown, and they come up with a plan for what they intend to get them. This year their plan calls for more useful items.

“But you go over a little bit because they’re your kids,” Peter said.

When sales signs beckon, it can be difficult to resit.

“It’s fun. We always do this every year,” Peter Barrett said of Black Friday. “You get in there and all the other stuff fades into the background and you think about what you want to buy and what to give other people.”

Price is right? Nikiski activist shows initiative against borough taxes, spending

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

For not being part of Kenai Peninsula Borough government, James Price has had a considerable impact on it.

He’s been directly involved in changing borough policy, lowering taxes, limiting assembly authority, and has helped bring two lawsuits against the municipality.

All this from a guy who’s only elected position is a term on the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area, who’s never worked in government, and who wasn’t even particularly interested in politics before moving to Nikiski.

“Before I came to the state of Alaska, I never voted. Now I register more people to vote than most people know,” he said.

Price moved north in 1988 from Portland, although he’s originally an oilfield worker from Texas. He’s a journeyman pipe fitter and has his process instrumentation certification from Kenai Peninsula College. He’s worked on Cook Inlet oil platforms and the North Slope, does construction work periodically and has commercial fished sockeye salmon for years, although he’s gravitating away from that, he said. Currently he’s working cutting vinyl through his own business, but is looking for another endeavor.

“In the next month or so — I keep threatening to do it, and I need to — I need to get a job,” he said.

That’s not to say Price doesn’t have plenty to keep him busy. He estimates spending more than 1,000 hours a year on his political activities in the borough, which include his involvement with the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers to rein in borough taxes and spending, and the Alaskans for Grocery Tax Relief Now group, which was behind the Oct. 7 ballot initiative to seasonally eradicate sales taxes on groceries in the borough. He also helped found the now-defunct Alaska Voters Organization, a watchdog group that reviewed legislative bills and kept tabs on the Legislature.

To some, Price and his associates are activist heroes, fighting for residents against a government that overtaxes, overspends and overlooks the wishes of its citizens. To others, their attempts to change policies, limit assembly authority and file lawsuits when their efforts don’t produce the desired results, makes them a nuisance, at best, or domestic terrorists — as former borough Mayor John Williams once called them — at worst.

To Price, he’s doing what he believes is right, even if many government and elected officials don’t agree with him.

“It comes out of my total frustration in dealing with government,” Price said of his political involvement. “Basically, I don’t accept the fact that government has to be the way that the borough says that it is. I believe that government is by and for the people.”

Price’s tool of choice is the initiative process, whereby citizens can effect direct changes in government by putting measures before voters — in effect sidestepping the usual route of public policymaking through elected and governmental officials.

“I couldn’t even dream of living in a state that doesn’t have initiative power, because without it I think that people are second-class citizens,” Price said. “It keeps government honest. It keeps government in line with what the will of the people is. It forces the state to be more responsive to the people.”

Price’s first exposure to politics came in 1998, when he served as campaign chairman for his friend Aaron Goforth’s bid for a state House seat.

“And that actually made me interested in trying to make some changes, to make a difference in the community,” he said.

Price has run unsuccessfully for seats in the state Legislature and borough assembly. From 2003-2006 he served on the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area board. But he’s had far more impact on how the borough does business as an outsider, wielding the power of the initiative.

He’s sponsored, co-sponsored and supported initiatives that have had wide-ranging impacts on the borough. The first was in 2001, when he and fellow members of Peninsula Citizens Against Private Prisons blocked a proposal to build an 800- to 1,000-bed, medium-security, private prison in the borough.

Price himself, or one of the groups he’s involved with, has proposed an initiative most years since then. ACT has targeted taxing, spending and borough policy, with measures to lower and cap the borough sales tax rate, cap borough spending at $1 million, and institute term limits on the borough assembly and school board.

In Nikiski, Price fought plans by the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area to pay to turn the vacated Nikiski Elementary School building into a community center.

And he’s tried to do away with sales taxes on nonprepared food twice, once in 2002 with an initiative to exempt groceries from sales taxes year-round, and in the October election with an initiative to exempt them seasonally so taxes would still be gathered in the summer.

Some measures did not garner enough voter support, like the first grocery tax initiative and a measure to restrict NSPRA to nothing but recreation activities. Others were successful. NSPRA’s spending was capped at $500,000 without a vote of service area members, and the borough’s spending cap was lowered from $1.5 million to $1 million with the requirement that 60 percent of voters must approve capital spending projects over that amount.

“We constantly assess our tactics, and what’s been successful and what’s failed. I think we’re creating better initiatives and cleaner, better ideas based on not just the Kenai Peninsula Borough, but other boroughs in the state of Alaska, and building on success we’ve had with many of our initiatives in the past,” Price said.

Then there are the initiatives that pass, yet don’t work out the way Price and fellow activists intend them to. Take term limits, for example. In 2007, voters approved instituting term limits on elected borough and school board officials. But in the same election, voters also re-elected assembly and school board members who had already served multiple terms. The re-elected members were reseated, and ACT filed suit to challenge the decision. A judge in August ruled that the school board was exempt from the term limits initiative, and the re-elected assembly members could keep their seats.

In 2006, Price and ACT followed their successful initiative to reduce and cap the borough sales tax rate in 2005 with an initiative that would rescind the entire revenue enhancement measure that the sales tax increase was part of. This time citizens voted no, which prompted the borough to reinstitute the sales tax increase, on the justification that the vote signaled citizens’ support of the entire piece of legislation, including the tax rate increase. ACT again filed suit.

Price’s current battle is over the grocery tax. The seasonal sales tax exemption garnered voter approval in October, but the borough assembly decided to grant cities the option of opting out of the exemption. As a result, Kenai and Soldotna will still collect sales taxes on groceries in the winter, and Homer is considering doing the same.

“It just gets awful. It’s almost like stepping in a tar pit and you start wiggling around and you’re just covered,” Price said. “When the borough accepts initiatives from the people and turns around and refuses to accept it once it’s voted on, that is just objectionable to the whole process.”

Price said the fight isn’t over. The group is hesitant to file another lawsuit without yet having the money to pay for it, but that is an option. More likely the group will address the issue with specific cities, and possibly do another initiative.

“I want for the people to get the benefit from the initiative that they passed, and want to see grocery taxes suspended in the borough,” Price said.

A long-term goal for Price is ACT’s ultimate aim — enacting a borough tax and spending cap. The measure would set a baseline borough budget, and restrict the amount of taxes it could gather and the amount it could spend based on population increases and inflation, as well as how much other revenue was coming in.

In the meantime, Price is heartened by borough Mayor Dave Carey’s willingness to meet and talk with ACT members.

“I really think the direction Mayor Carey is going could be real restorative to the balance in the borough. I think that’s very commendable,” Price said.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to sit back and leave government to its own devices.

“The initiative process only works when representatives and officials are not doing what people want them to do. That’s why we have so much success, is because our assembly members still to this day are not doing what the people want them to do,” Price said. “If citizens were represented appropriately at the assembly level, there would not be a reason and there would be no initiatives to possibly do because what needed to be done would be done.”

Strip mine lease renewal calls out foes — Chuitna coal mine idea troubles residents on both sides of Cook Inlet

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

A small settlement across Cook Inlet at Beluga is hoping a reworked contract between the Kenai Peninsula Borough and a coal company will result in a fresh look at a 21-year-old plan to a strip mine.

The borough owns a parcel of land known as Ladd Landing, where PacRim Coal LP plans to build a dock. From this staging area, PacRim’s plan is to ship in supplies for working the Beluga Coal Fields to extract an estimated 300 million metric tons of sub-bituminous coal over 25 years.

“The borough holds the key to this coal project,” year-round Beluga resident Judy Heilman said. “They lease the land where PacRim wants to build a dock. Once they make a dock, and if they get all the permits, it opens the whole west side of Cook Inlet for coal or any kind of mining.”

PacRim Coal LP, a Delaware-based company, plans to develop what is considered Alaska’s largest coal mine about 10 miles outside of Beluga. The 5,000-acre strip mine, called that because it removes the wetlands-tundra overlay, would sit at the bottom of Lone Ridge in the shadow of Mount Spurr.

About 12 people live there year-round, though the summer population swells to 200 setnetters, sportfishing enthusiasts and commercial fishermen, Heilman said. The settlement sits adjacent to the Chuitna River, nicknamed the “Kenai River” of the west side.

At a standing-room only Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting Nov. 18, the matter came up under Ordinance 2008-31. That piece of legislation dealt only with extending the Ladd Landing option-to-lease deadline from Jan. 9 to April 9. But it touched a sore spot among constituents who came to register concern about PacRim’s plan to develop a coal deposit along 12 miles of the pristine Chuitna River. Nearby Tyonek residents and Beluga residents have stated they are against the plan proceeding.

Assembly Vice President Pete Sprague said he, too, has reservations about a coal development there, but this ordinance would waive a 90-day requirement that would have made the lease option expire on Jan. 9. That served neither party, he said.

“Both sides are trying to renegotiate the lease,” Sprague said. “I tried to postpone it, (the ordinance), with the intent that if the administration wanted to, it could bring forward a proposal. But that didn’t pass.”

The ordinance asking for the option deadline extension passed in a 6-1 assembly vote.
Many were tuned in to the ordinance on the misperception that what was adopted would eliminate the public comment period, but “that is not the case,” Sprague said. Borough Mayor Dave Carey likewise assured listeners that he wouldn’t allow legislation to revoke the public’s right to comment.

“I have serious concerns about the project but that is not what we were addressing last night,” Sprague said, speaking the day after the meeting.

PacRim’s work ahead on environmental impact statements means the “project is a long way from going forward,” he said.

Borough Land Management Officer Marcus Mueller said the lease contract requires a lot of work. Amendments heaped on revisions have made it complicated.

“We’re working with PacRim to renegotiate the lease. With the Jan. 9 deadline, that didn’t give us much time. Now with the assembly’s actions we have more time,” Mueller said. “At the same time, we acknowledge that it’s likely we won’t have a product ready until April 9. A public comment period follows.”

PacRim pays $40,000 per year to the borough for keeping its lease option open, Mueller said. Since 1987, the project, under various previous owners or merging interests, has paid the borough about $1.5 million.

The contract badly needs “cleaning up” in order to give a fresh slate to negotiations, Mueller said.

Cook Inletkeeper Executive Director Bob Shavelson has concerns about the Chuitna project.

“I think this is a highly complicated matter. For one thing, it’s a lease that is as thick as a telephone book. I’m not confident the borough has the legal, technical and historical capacity to negotiate a complex lease,” Shavelson said.

Chuitna is the most significant land legislation to come before the borough since the previous lease was negotiated, he said.

Year-round Beluga resident Heilman agrees that losing people and public officials with historical knowledge of the project dating back to 1987 is one source of frustration. PacRim’s project manager, Bill Stiles, recently retired and with him went two decades of project knowledge.

To interest the borough in a closer look, Heilman and her husband, Larry, have invited borough assembly members and past mayors to visit the site of the proposed coal mine. An invitation was extended to Mayor Carey at the Nov. 18 meeting.

“Mayor (John) Williams never came. No assembly person has visited here,” she said.
A fellow resident recently called the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The clerk answering the phone didn’t believe Beluga was part of the borough, Heilman said.

“She had to put her on hold until the clerk could figure out whether we are part of the borough,” Heilman said.

As residents of the borough, Heilman said they would like to be heard in this process of a new contract, with protections for the surrounding wetlands.

“The 90-day grace period gives the borough time to look at the lease, to change it some way,” Heilman said. “I say, ‘go ahead an redo the lease.’ The lease has not been restructured for 20 years. It needs to be reworked, and new wording to make new protections for the land and the dock.”

Land manager officer Mueller said he understands residents have “a host of concerns.”
The reality is some concerns can be addressed by the borough, and many of them cannot, he said.

“We’re not a regulatory agency, though regulatory agencies are involved. We have a seat at the table. We’re certainly interested in using that seat wisely,” Mueller said. “There are areas of concern we can address and we’ll be looking at those and seeing how we an influence the project in a positive way.”

Land holding coal deposits is owned by the Alaska Mental Health Lands Trust and CIRI, Mueller said.

The 5,000-acre proposed mine site is just a tip of the project’s impact in the area. More than 55 square miles of wildlife and fish would be impacted, It would go through 11 miles of salmon spawning streams, a first for Alaska, Shavelson said. The process for getting at the coal involves digging 350 feet and pumping water out, as much as 7 million gallons per a day.

According to PacRim information on its proposed project, the coal would be destined for Asian markets.

In a lawsuit last summer, Trustees For Alaska, representing several environmental groups including Cook InletKeeper, had asked the Department of Natural Resources to stop the project.

Alaska attorney Rebecca Bernard said that decision ignored 20 years of research on the wetlands, and strip mining the area could destroy those wetlands. She said the success rate of restoring wetlands is quite low, meaning the operation could yield major flow changes to the drainages — thus affecting the fisheries.

But Irwin’s decision allowed PacRim to proceed with permit applications.

Marathon travel — Area skiers to race in Europe events

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

For a trip halfway around the world, ostensibly to do a 50-kilometer ski marathon, these skiers have relatively little concern for how they’ll do in the race.

A handful of central Kenai Peninsula cross-country skiers will make a cross-global trek to the Czech Republic this winter to compete in the Jizerská padesátka 50-K ski marathon on Jan. 11. Some will stay and ski the Dolomitenlauf on Jan. 18, a 60-K freestyle ski race in Austria. Both are part of the Worldloppet Ski Federation, a series of 14 cross-country ski marathons in 14 countries.

The trip is centered around participating in the prestigious and grueling marathons, yet the skiing doesn’t rate particularly high on the list of reasons why people are going.

“For me, it’s just kind of secondary. I’ve never really done any traveling outside the U.S. It’s just kind of a good opportunity, a good vehicle to travel and experience some good things,” said Pete Sprague, who’s skiing the Jizerská.

“I’m just doing this to do it and we’ll see how it goes. I’ll feel good if I just cross the finish line, and if I don’t cross the finish line, that’s OK. I’m in Europe — life is still good,” said Sarah Riley, who’s doing the Jizerská and Dolomitenlauf.

Sprague, 58, has skied the 50-K freestyle Tour of Anchorage ski race several times, and has run nine marathons in his life, so he’s not concerned with the Jizerská distance, he said. He’s not as practiced with classic skiing, since he usually only does it when it’s particularly cold, but he’s not changing up his regular winter skiing pursuits to train for the race.

“I don’t want to focus on the race, I just want to focus on the experience,” he said. “I’ve never been outside of North America, so I’m just looking forward to seeing a different part of the world and just using my passport a little bit. That’s going to be focus of the trip.”

It will be a quick trip for Sprague, sandwiched in between meetings of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, of which he is a member. He’s never missed a meeting and doesn’t want to start now, so he’s just going for the Jizerská and coming back. But he expects to see his fellow Soldotna-area skiers before he leaves.

“We’ll meet up at least for the race, probably for a beer afterward,” he said. “The Czech Republic is supposed to have good beer, so I may stop for one or two over there.”

He’s also looking forward to seeing Prague, which he’s heard is spectacular.

“And it’s almost spelled like my last name,” he said.

Riley, 31, has done a lot more traveling, but a lot less skiing than Sprague. She’s been through Europe and Japan, although this will be her first trip to the Czech Republic and Austria. It will also be her first long-distance race of any kind.

“I don’t know what I’m doing. I mean I do, I know how to ski, it’s just a bit more than I was thinking it was,” she said.

Riley grew up in Minnesota classic skiing with her mother, and learned to freestyle ski on her high school ski team. She skied a little in her last quarter of college and has kept her gear with her since, including when she moved to the Kenai Peninsula six years ago. But the longest ski race she’s done was in high school, probably about 5 kilometers.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I’m in good shape.’ I don’t know if I am, we’ll see. All I know is I’m in the fifth wave and I may or may not make it,” she said. “I’m not planning on going all out, just pace myself and do what I can to keep up with the pace.”

She’s been running and increasing the distances she skis to get ready for January.

“Once I warm up I feel like I can be out there for quite a while. I’ve been enjoying it. I haven’t been sore afterward. Actually, it’s been really enjoyable,” she said.

The 60-K Dolomitenlauf course is relatively flat, so Riley isn’t too worried about that. The Jizerská, on the other hand, has a 750-meter climb spread over 5 kilometers in the first part of the race.

“I’m a little concerned about that. Since it’s classic, if my wax isn’t right I’m going to be in a world of hurt,” she said.

Even if that’s what happens, Riley’s world of hurt will be tempered by the fact that she’s in a new part of the world.

“I like to travel, so I figured this would be something else to do besides going to a city and seeing the sights, and you get to meet people with similar interests. That’s the most fun of traveling, finding people on same track as you and hanging out,” she said.

That sounds about right to Sprague, as well.

“I’m just racing to experience it all, or skiing to experience it all,” he said.

Housing a wild past — Riverside House booked with stories in turbulent boom years

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

The crimes were odd, to say the least, even for the crazy mid-1960s when oil-boom activities dominated the central Kenai Peninsula.

Each victim reported returning to his first-floor room in the two-story Riverside House hotel to discover that one of his shirts was missing and to find hanging in his closet a stranger’s shirt. Later, another victim reported that his leather jacket was missing, and someone else’s shirt was in its place.

Allen and Joanne Odom, the original caretakers of the hotel, said that they and law-enforcement officers were puzzled initially.

“We couldn’t figure out how it was happening because the doors were always locked,” Joanne said. And then they realized that the culprit was entering all of the rooms via ground-floor windows that had been cracked open for better air circulation.

Someone, they realized, was aware when patrons were absent from their rooms and was slipping in through the rollout windows to do mischief.

“He seemed to really like to be able to get in your room when you weren’t there,” Allen said. “Just to know he could do it,” Joanne added. “And move things around,” continued Allen. “He must’ve been a kleptomaniac,” said Joanne.

In the end, he was apprehended, not because he got careless in his break-ins, but because he branched out in his criminal activity.

“He went peeping-tomming in the (nearby) Riverside Terrace trailer park,” said Allen. “That’s where he got caught.”

When authorities ascertained his base of operations, the Odoms learned that he was a customer of the hotel and working in the same company as his other victims.

“When (Officer) Russ Anderson caught him, they went in his room,” Allen said. “These guys could identify their shirts and their leather jacket or what-not that he had in the closet. He liked to go in your place and get away with it, and go out.”

Over the many months the Odoms ran the hotel, they saw hundreds of other patrons — some bad, some good. There were exhibitionists, who liked to leave open the doors to their rooms so they could be easily seen in their natural splendor. But there were also men such as Red Adair, the renowned oilfield firefighter from Texas, whose team in 1991 would extinguish 117 wells set on fire in Kuwait by retreating Iraqi troops. Adair stayed at the Riverside for several days while helping to shut off a blown Beaver Creek wellhead.

The clientele matched the times, and a frontier type of mentality tended to dominate an era filled with transient workers, burgeoning populations, bursting schools and big capital projects.

Usually, though, life was fairly quiet at the Riverside House — which opened in April 1966 as a hotel/restaurant, easily the largest and most luxurious on the central peninsula. Generally, the Odoms, who lived with their three young daughters in an apartment behind the front desk, were on call 24 hours a day.

“There was a lot of work to do,” said Joanne, sister to Jesse Robinson, namesake of Robinson Loop in Sterling. “We were busy all the time. Complete room changes, over and over.”

“Joanne and I had to get up out of bed if someone came in and banged on the bell at the desk,” added Allen.

Each day began with Joanne and her main housekeeper stripping beds, cleaning the hotel’s 22 rooms, and laundering all the linens and towels. Fortunately for the Odoms, the restaurant, although attached, was owned and run separately from the hotel, so they could focus solely on their own patrons.

While Burton Carver owned the hotel, the restaurant was operated by the head chef, Bud Bennington, who was known to offer some of the area’s finest dining. The restaurant had been completed first, in 1963, transformed from the Carver family home, which sat along the banks of the Kenai River on a piece of property that Carver had purchased from homesteader Howard Binkley.

Allen had begun working for Carver a few months after he and Joanne arrived from their home state of Colorado in 1960, and when Carver completed the hotel he asked the Odoms to run it. They appreciated the full-time employment.

As fate would have it, however, 1966 was to be unkind to Carver himself. His wife, Joyce, was murdered in Anchorage in July, he lost a primary election bid for the state Senate and he suffered a heart attack later in the year. He had also gotten in over his head financially on the hotel-building project and was forced to sell the business the following year.

When Carver left the business, the Odoms also left. Allen, who is now 72, went on to work for Texaco, while Joanne, now 69, began driving a school bus for Carver. But until Carver sold out, the Odoms were in charge. Although most days were perfectly normal, they experienced their share of unusual behavior.

There were the philanderers.

“One of those guys from Anchorage, I remember him coming in one time when I was out sweeping the entry,” Allen said. “He gets out of a car and comes over and starts going, ‘Hey, Mr. Odom! Mr. Odom, how you doing? Got the wife with me today.’ He introduced me to her and everything.

“He’d been down there a week or so before with this beautiful blonde about 6 foot tall.”

Joanne remembered “a fellow from out Funny River way who used to come in with a lot of (other women). And I knew his wife.”

Her knowledge didn’t halt his behavior.

Sometimes even more unseemly activities invaded the Riverside.

“Down at the far end (of the hotel), we start seeing guys coming and going. So one day this beautiful woman comes out and left with somebody in the car. We come to find out, this (one) guy was working something with her and having guys come in here. She was a prostitute.”

“Then I heard that she was dancing someplace else,” Joanne added. “And I asked him about it. And he got really smart with me, and I told him to get out.”

And then there were the hard-core drunks, who might suffer through delirium tremens if they ran out of money and couldn’t keep drinking.

“This one guy was the worst we had,” Joanne said. “And Allen thought, ‘I’ve gotta get him something (to drink).’ And I said, ‘I’ll take care of that guy.’”

“He couldn’t even get out of bed,” continued Allen. “I took him a drink,” said Joanne, who added that she was acting on orders from Carver.

Allen called long distance to the man’s son in the Lower 48. According to Allen, the son said, “I told him not to go off up there. My dad’s got a drinking problem. I said, ‘Don’t go to Alaska.’”

Back in the hotel room, the man was “in there smoking, curtains all drawn, hands shaking,” Allen said. Finally, Carver gave the man enough money for a plane ticket home.

Fortunately for the Odoms, all these odd occurrences were the exception, not the rule. Normally, life behind the front desk was fairly routine: The rooms filled with businessmen, fishermen and families on vacation, and shirt-stealing peeping-toms didn’t come along every day.

Editorial: Gift that keeps on giving

’Tis the season for a lot of things: Giving thanks, spreading joy, caring for neighbors, contributing to your community.

We can accomplish all those with one simple task this holiday season: Shopping local.
Since it’s also the season to make lists, we’ll do that too, with reasons why it’s a great idea to support local businesses.

It helps the community. Sales taxes in the Kenai Peninsula Borough go to fund education, so for purchases made on the peninsula, a portion of the money spent goes to schools. Cities collect sales taxes, as well, and use the money to pay for the services city-dwellers enjoy. Businesses also contribute to property taxes, which fund all manner of governmental operations. Spiderman pajamas purchased for your nephew at a local store this Christmas really do have superpowers — they pay for schools, road plowing, fire protection, police and a whole slew of other services.

It helps the economy. Local businesses provide jobs. Not as many as government or big oil, but they still employ thousands of people on the peninsula. Paychecks from those jobs help support the economy by being spent in local stores, paying for homes and in general circulating throughout the economy.

It helps neighbors. Local residents who own and work in local stores are members of the community. They donate to bake sales, coach youth sports, volunteer at fundraisers and keep an eye out for lost dogs and stolen bicycles. Without their jobs, they may not have the ability to do those things, or may have to move altogether.

It can save money. Postal rate increases mean purchases ordered out of catalogs or off the Internet come with an extra price tag that can easily render sales prices or savings from avoiding sales taxes moot. Driving to Anchorage to shop also racks up extra costs. Even with gas prices dropping under $3 a gallon, a shopping trip to Anchorage can cost $50 to $100 extra.

Good selection. There’s something for everyone in area stores. Got an outdoorsman in the family? They’re covered. Does someone love to cook? No problem. Are they a sewer, artist, musician, athlete or gourmet coffee connoisseur? Check. New tech gadgets, the season’s “it” toys and trendy clothes are available locally, as well as unique, one-of-a-kind items. If you really can’t find a thing for someone on your list, then get them an experience, such as a gift certificate to a local restaurant, or tickets to a movie, sporting event or theater show.

Shoppers say their holiday budgets will be tightened this year, and there’s plenty of reasons why that’s a good idea. But it makes spending choices all the more important.

Maximize the impact of whatever gifts are on your list this year by buying them locally. Not only is it a present to the intended recipient, it’s a gift to the whole community, as well.

Guest editorial: Opportunities for healing follow grief, terror of Soldotna hospital shooting

On this Thanksgiving Day 2008, I am mindful of the opening sentence from Charles Dickens’ “The Tale of Two Cities,” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Yesterday, the community around Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna experienced the worst of times and must now create the best of times as we all heal and move forward.

I was an observer throughout the day with three visits to the hospital. After we lifted the lockdown of the Borough Building, I went to the hospital to provide support wherever possible. As I entered the Emergency area, shock was ever present as I was shown the result of the dark event which had transpired. Gun casings were marked with tape and were ever present in the hallways, bullet holes through many walls, blood-stained handprints.

The professionals at the hospital were working to restore sanity, mend the physically wounded and respond to the countless decisions to be made as the hospital remained both a crime scene and a working center of healing. Stories and events were being relived and all were praying for the two victims in surgery. As I left the hospital, a most worried husband drove into the parking lot because his wife worked in the hospital. After he told me his last name, I assured him that his wife was safe.

I returned to the Borough Building to assure all that we were safe and met with the school district officials to keep them informed and end the lockdown of our schools imposed when the gunman left the hospital, after the shootings inside, and was on the loose with his terrible weapon.

I then returned to the hospital, where I was escorted back to the Administrative Center and listened as stories of terror were relived. Individuals helping the wounded while under attack, a jammed rifle that saved a probable victim, hiding under a desk as bullets were coming through the walls, turning over a table for shelter and realizing that bullets would pass through it, thoughts of not wanting to die as bullets are flying, and being shown a desk chair with a bullet hole through it and thankfulness that the office occupant was at a meeting.

At the same time, observing the most thorough and helpful law enforcement personnel as they explained a crime scene unit was leaving Anchorage and everything possible must be kept untouched. Shocked staff were finding the names and addresses of the next of kin of the shooter, writing a news release for the community, helping each other to get back on task, and, always, praying for the victims in surgery and thankfulness that more had not been wounded. Then, a surgery nurse reporting, “Mike had not made it through.”

I was back three hours later and observed the mental health professionals and chaplain teams as they were assisting the unwounded wounded and teaching them how begin to process their trauma and prepare them to help others.

The mental health professionals stressed our need for each other, our need to listen to each other, our need to talk about our feelings regarding the events of the tragedy and the absolute fact that everyone will process this dark event with stress reactions which may be on the physical, cognitive, emotional and/or behavioral level. Everyone must discuss their reactions and let this dark event face the brightness of our normal life, our loved ones, and our normal events.

This morning (Sunday) at church, the clergy member directed those attending, especially the children, to hug everyone five times. He said, “Hugging, helps healing.” I like to think that the five hugs are for physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral and spiritual healing as we experience our lives together after this terrible tragedy.

As we carry Thanksgiving Day 2008 forward throughout the rest of this year, please focus on the brightness of thanksgiving to lighten the darkness of this event. Please hug the many, many people who work at or near the hospital and their families. Please hug the law enforcement and emergency services personnel who dealt with this event and deal with them daily.

Please hug any mental health professionals and many teams of chaplains who work at healing throughout our community. And, please hug your family and speak prayers of thankfulness, so that this worst of days can be transformed by our best of days.

Dave Carey is mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, elected in October. He is the former mayor of Soldotna.

‘Cyberdoom’: Better paranoid than sorry

Over the past several weeks, we’ve discussed some obvious, mostly internal, computer security concerns that might compromise your privacy, your data and your business.

In this article, our last on computer security, we’ll talk about intentional security threats arising from external sources — in other words, viruses, “spybots,” Trojan Horses and other malicious software. In this context, the old maxim, “If you’re not a little paranoid, you’re not being sufficiently careful,” is assuredly true.

There are numerous potentially serious security problems that have roamed the Internet so long that their exact genesis can be hard to pinpoint. And, of course, new ones are added daily.

Computer viruses and other malicious software are easy to write — 12-year-olds can download virus writing software even though setting any malicious software loose is a serious federal crime.

Viruses typically are designed to simply wreak havoc on your data and, less often, on your hardware. Other malicious software include “rootkits” that burrow almost undetectably into the very core of your computer operating system, and various forms of spyware that quietly send select data and possibly keystrokes such as passwords and PIN numbers, to a remote, often obscure location.

There’s not a single general method of exchanging data that will always be secure without taking some precautions. At one time, most malicious software was thought to spread through floppy disks — remember them? Probably, but only if you are more than 13 years old.

Back then, malicious e-mail attachments and even “free” picture and screen saver files were primary sources of external computer infections. More recently, malicious programs have been hitchhiking within ubiquitous USB flash drives and even digital photo frames.

In fact, the U.S. Army just banned the use of flash drives until further notice, and new Chinese digital photo frames were recently found to include hidden security-breaching software that could transfer to your computer by hitchhiking on your SD photo memory card. Are you feeling paranoid yet?

Yet, even if cyberdoom may someday occur, day-to-day computing can be fairly trouble-free if you take reasonable precautions. Avoid sharing data with users and computer systems that you don’t trust. Be careful about opening certain kinds of e-mail attachments, such as executable programs and files with embedded macros. Set your Windows system to limit the access of Java and ActiveX scripts.

There several basic lines of defense. First and foremost is to ensure that you have properly installed all Microsoft security patches. First, run Windows Update. Then, check whether your operating system’s basic security is current by running Belarc Advisor, available as a free download from www.belarc.com. Belarc is a recognized security provider to federal agencies and their free Advisor program not only does a comprehensive system audit, but identifies any missing or improperly installed security patches and includes a link that takes you directly to the Microsoft Web page that provides further information and, in most cases, a direct download of the missing security patches.

Another generally accepted, free security program is Spybot 1.6, which seeks out and deactivates spyware, a type of software that, in its least malicious form, silently tracks your Web surfing behavior to create a marketing profile of you that is transmitted without your knowledge to third parties and perhaps sold to advertising companies or scammers.

Internet “cookies,” which track your access to various Web sites, are among the most common but typically most benign sort of spyware. Much more dangerous spyware exists and you should periodically scan your computer for it using either Spybot or the spyware component of Internet security suites, such as AVG 8. One reputable source for Spybot is www.softpedia.org. The URL for Spybot 1.6 is http://www.softpedia.com/get/Internet/Popup-Ad-Spyware-Blockers/SpyBotSearch-Destroy.shtml.

You’ll need comp-rehensive security software to block attempts to infiltrate and infect your computer system. Norton Anti-virus used to be a favorite, in part because there was a time back in the old DOS command prompt days when Norton was about the only one around.

Several years ago, the Norton-branded software started losing favor because it was a resource hog that slowed down computer systems by as much as 30 percent, in my own tests, and because its somewhat dated programming approach seemed to introduce instabilities into Windows computer systems. As a result, other antivirus programs gained a foothold and ultimately expanded into fully functional security suites that now dominate the market.

At the moment, my favorite Internet security software is AVG Antivirus, now in version 8, and typically purchased by paid Internet download, although a free trial version is available. Grisoft (www.grisoft.com) publishes AVG Antivirus in the Czech Republic. (It’s OK — they’re now a member of NATO and switched to our side. )

AVG version 8 has several nice features: It’s updated several times a day and its subscriptions are both reasonably priced and run for two years. AVG 8 does not cause system instabilities and does not make heavy demands on a modern computer’s resources, and hence will not perceptibly slow it unless it’s doing a full hard disk scan.

The entire AVG security suite installs by default and is highly configurable to fit whatever blend of security, performance and ease of use most suits you.

You can easily configure each AVG module using the “components” submenu from the main AVG menu bar and then clicking on the component that you want to configure. When you configure AVG 8, ensure that the system updates itself and scans your system at least daily, even though scanning your computer temporarily slows it.

Automatically scan all incoming and outgoing e-mail and Web pages. Also scan all potentially infectable data and program files traveling solely within your system.

Enable “heuristic” analysis that spots suspicious software behavior even if that software doesn’t match any currently known virus. Enable the “rootkit,” “resident shield,” “Web shield” and spyware modules. Although AVG includes an optional firewall program, I still prefer using Microsoft’s Windows Firewall because it works more transparently. AVG’s firewall is so secure that I am often unable to even access my Internet connection and expose my system to potential virus infections and security breaches.

Now, that’s secure!

Local attorney Joseph Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and has been writing and lecturing about technology throughout the U.S. since 1990 for American Bar Association, Alaska Bar Association and private publications. He also owned a computer store in Soldotna between 1990 and 2000.

Cool performance — Comedian to heat up stage with standup show

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Andy Hendrickson’s standup comedy career got off to a cold start. Not in terms of response or success, just literally — it was North Dakota in January.

“It was freezing,” Hendrickson said.

That’s the coldest place his standup comedy career has taken him so far, although a trip to Alaska this weekend might break that record, if temperatures in Southcentral don’t rise above the below-zero mark they plummeted to this week. Nevertheless, he said he’s looking forward to the trip, which includes a performance Friday at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and one Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna.

“I’ve been really excited to get up there, because I’ve always wanted to see Alaska,” Hendrickson said. “When I got the gig book I got real excited.”

Or he was, at least. Hendrickson said he was hoping to see the northern lights. He was also looking forward to the scenery between Anchorage and Soldotna, and had been told not to worry about the driving, unless there’s a storm. The aurora forecast is quiet this weekend, while the weather forecast is calling for snow.

“I’m not coming then,” he said.

If nothing else, the trip may provide him with new material. He said he sometimes works in observations from his location into his performance.

“Sometimes things strike me,” he said. “When I get there, if there’s something obvious, say in the airport in Anchorage or on the drive down, or if I stop on the way down, whatever things that happened to me on the way there, I’ll comment on that.”

Hendrickson is a Navy kid. We was born in California, moved to Hawaii and spent most of his time as a kid in Virginia. He graduated from Western Virginia University with a degree in advertising before moving to Atlanta.

He worked in graphics production for a while, at a sign company and for a company that made trade show exhibits. While in Atlanta he saw a news report about a guy who taught a standup comedy class and decided to give it a try.

“I kind of got the bug. Ever since then I slowly phased out my old job and became a full-time comedian,” Hendrickson said.

“It’s a fun job, obviously. It’s very rewarding getting feedback right off the bat. You say your joke, get the laughs and you know what’s working. Getting people to laugh is a good thing. It’s very addictive.”

Hendrickson said he enjoys the process of writing jokes and coming up with ways to relate something he’s noticed or that’s happened to him.

The lifestyle’s not bad, either.

“I just love the whole process,” he said. “It’s very creative and you only work an hour a night. There’s more to it than that, of course, but you get to be your own boss.”

Hendrickson has toured across the Lower 48, Hawaii and Europe in his 10.5 years doing standup, and recently returned to New York City from a stint in Canada. He performs at a lot of college campuses, and also has been part of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., the Boston Comedy Festival and D.C. Comedy Fest. His TV appearances include NBC’s “Night Shift,” the WB’s “Nite Laff-off” and Media One’s “Gonzo Comedy.” On national radio he’s been heard on the Bob and Tom Morning Show, XM Satellite Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio and National Lampoon Radio.

The KPC show starts with an opening live music performance by Diggin’ Roots, with Robb Justice, Dan Spencer and Dan Pascucci. Then Hendrickson takes the stage.

“I think it’s very rewarding to get that instant feedback from the crowd,” he said. “The only thing that might be cooler is to be in a rock band.”

Hopefully, “cooler” can be a figurative term this trip.

Art Seen: Dena’ina exhibit includes craftsmanship of usable, decorative arts

The “Dena’ina Art and Regalia” show at the Funky Monkey in November was an interesting compilation of works gathered by the Kenaitze Tribe.

You will see photography of interpretive sites by Kim Dolchok, as well as be able to pick up a flyer on “K’Beq” or “Footprints,” the Kenaitze-run interpretive site this side of Cooper Landing. Or you could peruse Maggie Jones’ 2007 anth- ropology class project, a series of stories incor- porating Dena’ina language. She has a fiber piece on exhibit titled “Three Friends” or “Tuq’ina Ida Sukdu,” which appears to be a story of three feathered friends who live in a coastal area.

Jones also displays a number of beaded leather garments, or regalia, at least one of which has earned an award at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair. Dentillia shells are utilized quite a bit in these pieces, which have a historic reputation for denoting wealth and prosperity. A handbag paired with a particularly beautiful garment has an authentic gut sack bottom, cleverly sewn into a heart shape as seen from below.

Dana Verrengia has her leather and beadwork displayed, as well, plus a series of four small wall hangings depicting various Alaska scenes, including a vibrant depiction of our beloved red salmon buddies.

Benjamin R. Baldwin has contributed two unique paintings. One is called “Dagedi T’et’ani” or “One That Makes Smoke” and is about Mount Redoubt erupting in the late 1980s. The piece is backed or matted by wild beach grass, and Baldwin has told his story using pigments made from fireweed, Alaska blackberry and powdered Kenai river rock. In “Nagh quinqudatl” or “They Have Returned to Us,” salmon are returning to their spawning grounds. In this he’s utilized fireweed, delphinium, Alaska blackberry, dog berry/leaf and crushed Kenai river rock. The depictions are subtle and earthy.

There is a sense of deep reverence and love that seems to come out of this compilation. It is good to see that efforts toward keeping the culture alive and well seem to be paying off. The dim but not sparse lighting of the space creates an ambiance that urges customers to feel comfortable with small talk as well as deeper discussion.

The next art show at the Funky Monkey will open with a First Thursday reception for photographer Allison Mattson from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Kaladi Brothers will likely have new artists to check out then, as well, but look for most First Thursday venues to have something going on in February. The first Thursday in January falls on the first day of the year, a day not likely to yield receptions or openings.

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

Arts and Entertainment week of Dec. 3

Holiday arts, crafts fairs:
  • The Kenaitze Indian Tribe presents the Old Town Holiday Gift Shop from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 20 at Fort Kenay, across from the Russian Orthodox Church, with Alaska Native arts and crafts.
  • Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Kenai will hold its 14th annual bake sale at 10 a.m. Saturday. Contact Mary Kennedy at 776-8328, or mkennedy@alaska.net.
  • The Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai will host a homemade craft fair from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 13.
  • The Kenai Boys and Girls Club will hold a Shopping Fair and Family Holiday Party from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call Kimberly Dent, 283-2682.
  • The Apostolic Assembly of Jesus Christ will hold its 29th annual Christmas cookie sale, on a pre-order basis only, through Dec. 10. Cost is $4.00 per dozen. To order, call Liz at 262-5525, Rick at 262-1763, or Diane at 262-1714.
  • Hope Community Resources will hold a holiday bazaar from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 13 on Kalifornsky Beach road behind Ellis Automotive. Vendors are needed and can rent a table for $15. Proceeds benefit Hope’s activity fund. For more information, contact Lisa Hamilton at 260-9469 or lhamilton@hopealaska.org.

  • The Kenai Community Library is offering community members the opportunity to participate in the StoryCorps Alaska oral history initiative by recording interviews. Participants will receive a free broadcast-quality CD and a copy of the interview will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. For more information or to schedule appointments stop by the library or call Cynthia Gibson at 283-4378. Interviews are recorded at 9 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays through Dec. 10.
  • The Kenai Performers present Victorian Carolers who sing a cappella carols at holiday events. To book a performance, call Dagmar at 398-0865.
  • Art Works in Soldotna has photography by Joe Kashi on display through December.
  • The Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai has multimedia black and white art by Alissa Mattson on display through December.
  • The Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College has ceramics work by Steven Godfrey, head of ceramics at the University of Alaska Anchorage, on display until Dec. 11.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has artwork by Anna Jo Warfle on display through December.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has art by Kathie Lee Painter and Donna Schwanke on display through December.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has childrens’ submissions to the VFW Women’s Auxilliary annual art show.
  • Veronica’s coffee shop in Kenai has photographs of Veronica’s through the seasons by Joe Kashi on display.

  • Soldotna city Christmas tree-lighting festivities, with free sleigh and dog sled rides, kids’ crafts, refreshments and pictures with Santa, will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Central Emergency Services Station.

  • The Kenai Writers Group will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Kenai Community Library Conference room. It is open to new members.

  • The Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai offers a free night of stargazing from 6 to 8:30 p.m. with outside telescopes (weather permitting), the Galactic gift shop and space station simulator tours.
  • Kenai Performers will hold general auditions for the musical “Oliver!” from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Kenai Central High School Little Theatre. Come prepared to sing, move and act, and bring water and your schedule through February. Performances are Feb. 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and March 1. Contact Laura Forbes at 394-1525 or leadergreen@yahoo.com.

  • A beginning beading workshop taught by Ruth Missik for ages 12 and up will be held at the Kenai Community Library from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Limited to 10 participants. Cost is $20 to cover supplies. To register or for more information, call 283-4378.
  • Santa will visit with kids from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, with live holiday music and goodies for kids.
  • Kenai Performers general auditions for “Oliver” from noon to 5 p.m. See Friday listing.
  • Kenai Peninsula College Art Students League will hold the sixth annual Arts Extravaganza from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center with a live outcry auction at 7 p.m., and a raffle of an original watercolor by Jim Evenson titled “Fish.” Admission is $5 and gourmet desserts and refreshments will be served.
  • Comedian Andy Hendrickson will perform in the Ward Building at Kenai Peninsula College at 7:30 p.m. with opening act music by Diggin’ Roots, featuring Robb Justice, Dan Spencer and Dan Pascucci.

  • Kenai Performers call-back auditions for “Oliver” at noon. See Friday listing.

Coming up
  • Peninsula Take-a-Break will hold a women’s brunch and Christmas tea party from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at Solid Rock Conference Center, with carols, a tea cup and Christmas mug exchange, and an update on Stonecroft Ministries. Reservations must be made by Sunday. Contact Cindy at tab-reservations@hotmail.com or 260-6262.
  • Peninsula Artists in Motion Dance Company is holding auditions for new dancers at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at Encore Dance Academy, 110 Haller St. in Kenai. The company is looking for adult women, preferably with dance experience. Call Katrina at 283-3140.
  • Triumvirate Theatre will perform “Insane with Power,” a super hero comedy by Scott Haan, directed by Angie Nelson, starring Jamie Nelson, Chris Jenness, Terri Burdick, Karlene Meyers and Adam Meyers, at 7 p.m. Dec. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at the theater in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Tickets are $10. ¬¬
  • The Class Act performers of Triumvirate Theatre will stage a dinner theater production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Funky Monkey coffee shop at 6 p.m. Dec. 12, 13, 19 and 20. Tickets are $30 per person, and seating is limited.
  • Santa will visit with kids from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 13 and 20 at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, with live holiday music and goodies for kids.
  • First Baptist Church of Kenai will hold a Christmas Cintata with Christmas music at 7 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14.
  • The Central Peninsula Writers Group is accepting submissions for its 12th annual Central Peninsula Writers Presentation on March 14 at Triumvirate Theatre in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Adult and high school writers from Cooper Landing to Ninilchik to Nikiski may enter. Entries are due Feb. 6. Entry forms and complete guidelines are available at the Kenai Community Library and online at kenailibrary.org under the Writer Group link.

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

Live music
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has folk music on Wednesday night.
  • Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna has music by 9-Spine on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has live music by Loretta Spalding at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Tyler Schlung at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has The Free Beer Band on Wednesday night.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has open mic Wednesdays.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass by Them Other Shuckers at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has The Mabrey Brothers at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • The Riverside in Soldotna has Travis B. and Shaun on Thursday night.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic music at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

  • 9 p.m. Thursdays 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. Tuesdays and Wednesday at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 8:30 p.m. Friday at J-Bar-B in Kasilof.
  • 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Maverick in Soldotna.

  • Hooligan’s in Soldotna has a nine-ball pool tournament at 9 p.m. Thursdays.
  • BJ’s in Soldotna has a Brown Bears hockey pregame party from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday with a ticket to the game, tacos and a beer for $15.
  • The J-Bar-B has free pool on Sundays, a horseshoe pit in the beer garden, and a cash drawing at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has a pool tournament at 8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a dart tournament at 8 p.m. Thursdays.