It's about winter fun in the land of the midnight sun

Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Even though this time of year the illumination of the land of the midnight sun is more by the light of the silvery moon, Alaska's Playground; The Kenai Peninsula, is preparing for a whole lot of fun starting next week.

According to Aud Walaszek, executive director of the Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council, "It's all about tradition!" Walaszek, and the Peninsula Winter Games (PWG) board members have created a PWG Booster Committee that has raised over $50,000 from local sponsors to put on this year's events. The Peninsula Winter Games started in 1957, when a log cabin, dog sled building missionary by the name of Al York and his wife Bernice of Sterling decided to create a reason for local kids to get outside and have some fun during the long Alaskan winters. The games continued each year with the events and turn out varying from year to year depending on the weather conditions, but the theme of kids getting outdoors and having fun never changed.

This year from January 23rd February 1st hundreds of athletes, coaches, families and visitors from all over Alaska will be gathering on the Central Peninsula to participate in the 2004 PWG, "We will be welcoming guests this year from Wasilla, Fairbanks, Valdez, and Anchorage. It's really exciting because many of our events such as the snow machine and dog races, youth hockey, native Olympic competitions, and basketball tournaments are bringing in travelers and teams from all over the state," said Walaszek. The kick-off event will be the Monopoly tournament for kids and adults commencing January 23rd and featuring real life bankers, realtors, and jailors, leading up to the big weekend and the start of the 20th running of the Iditarod qualifying Tustemena 200 Sled Dog race January 31st. "There will be something for everyone in 48 hours," promises Barb Blakeley, president of the AWG Board of Directors. The popular frozen salmon toss will have awards for kids of all ages from 2 to 102 according to Blakely.

This year the PWG are seeing the largest promotional effort ever in their history, with Booster Committee chairpersons encouraging business of all kinds to offer tie-in sales during this year's games. Another contributing factor to the excitement of the local event this year is the anticipation of the international 2006 Arctic Winter Games (AWG), which, will be hosted on the Kenai Peninsula, "One of the purposes of the Arctic Winter Games is to leave a legacy to the host community. We see the PWG as a perfect event for that purpose as well as a means for us to test our systems and train our volunteers for the 2006 games," said Bill Popp, chairmen of the AWG revenue development committee. "But it's still mainly about creating memories with families and friends, just like the York's started out to do in 1977, so bring your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, we will bundle them up with blankets, helmets and give them hot cocoa and create memories with some real Alaskan winter fun that will last a lifetime," concluded Walaszek.

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