Peninsula Winter Games get under way

Event meant to entertain during off season gets own video after 29 years

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2005

A 5-year-old in a sled being towed by a dog barreling down a runway.

"That's what it's all about," said Paul Gray, producer of the "Exploring Alaska" television show and producer of a video about the Peninsula Winter Games.

The Peninsula Winter Games are a week-long event of winter activities, such as ice sculpting, dog mushing, monopoly, hockey and soccer tournaments, aimed at bringing the community together and making the bleak dark winter months on the Kenai Peninsula a rip-roaring good time.

Gray was commissioned to produce and air the video last year. It is aimed at capturing the mood of the event and the history behind it, while showing the numerous activities that take place.

It shows Alaskans — young and old — carving and cutting ice, throwing frozen salmon, riding sleds along with a whole slew of other activities.

Gray, who has lived in Soldotna since 1979, said he has enjoyed the games for years. He said Alaskans often hibernate in the winter and do not interact with each other much. The games are a way for people to get out and enjoy what an Alaska winter has to offer, he said.

"It brings the community together," he said.

Plus, with the peninsula's proximity to Anchorage, the games also are a way to draw tourists to the area in the winter, he said.

It is Gray's hope that his video will help educate people about the event and inspire them to participate.

"My mission is to educate and enlighten people about Alaskans and what they do for fun," he said.

Barb Blakeley, president of the Peninsula Winter Games, said the video has been used as a way to promote the event. So far, it has appeared on television and at local chamber meetings, to name a few, she said.

There are so many people who do not know what the event is, she said.

"The video brought (the event) to life," she said.

Blakeley said that while almost everything that goes on is geared for fun, she is particularly fond of the ice carving — from cutting the ice out of the pond to seeing the final product.

The games, in their 29th year, were started by area resident Al York, when he and some friends were sitting around trying to think of things to do in the winter, Blakeley said. Over the years, the event continued to happen — some years bigger than others, she said.

In 1991, it became an official not-for-profit organization. This year, Blakeley said there are a variety of events planned — some new ones, such as a soccer tournament and the state championship ice carving competition — and plenty of old standbys.

"We've tried to keep that spirit that Al York started," she said. That spirit is family fun that does not cost a lot of money, she said.

"It just brings so many people together."

The formal kickoff of the games will be a Monopoly tournament at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Aspen Hotel in Soldotna. More information can be found on the games Web site at www.peninsulawintergames.com.

To purchase a copy of the video, call the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce at 262-9814. It will be aired at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 30 on the ABC station.



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