Dog mushers of all ages are preparing for the coming Peninsula Winter Games.
In the wake of the international success of the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, the Kenai Peninsula prepares for the 31st Annual Peninsula Winter Games getting under way January 20th-28th. According to Shanon Hamrick, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Association (KPTMC) which coordinates the event, hundreds of athletes, coaches and families from throughout the State of Alaska will be visiting the Kenai Peninsula to participate in the Peninsula Winter Games. “The Peninsula Winter Games were started back in 1977 by the late Mr. Al York, a missionary and member of the Soldotna Lions Club. Mr. York recognized the need to create an event where the local children would have an opportunity to enjoy sports, games & kid oriented events during the winter season,” said Hamrick.
After the passing of Mr. York, John Torgerson picked up the torch and, with the help of the Soldotna Lions and numerous volunteers and sponsors carried on the tradition. The event which began with an afternoon of outdoor activities at the Soldotna Little League Park has turned into an eight day carnival with activities throughout the Central Peninsula. A signature of the Peninsula Winter Games is the annual ice carving competition where artists from all over Alaska and the Lower 48 gather to create spectacular works of art chiseled from blocks of ice harvested locally from Marathon Lake by the Soldotna Rotary Club. “The harvest is an event in itself,” said Hamrick, “An idea that Jerry Near and Norm Blakeley have grown greatly with the help of a lot of volunteers. The first year the Associated Press picked up on a Dispatch photo entitled Ice Fishing in Alaska and since then it’s taken on a life of its own. This year more than 21 local businesses will have sculptures done at their locations for visitors to see in addition to the regular competition that will be held at the Soldotna Sports Center.”
For Snowball the Peninsula Winter Games are about the kids and the food.
The events commence at 9:30am January 20th with the opening ceremonies of the popular Native Youth Olympics at Kenai Middle School, and that evening at 6:00pm the first round of the Adult Monopoly Tournament begins at the Aspen Hotel in Soldotna. A multitude of activities will continue through Sunday, January 28th at 8:00pm when a huge bonfire and fire art display by Griz will conclude the 31st Peninsula Winter Games at the Soldotna Sports Center. For a complete schedule of events watch in the Peninsula Clarion or go to www.peninsulawintergames.com.
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