The stores are all closed and gated for the night, but the Peninsula Center Mall is packed with people anyway.
Teen-agers, children and parents fill rows of folding chairs. Even more people stand in the back, lining the corridor of the mall.
At the front of the crowd stands a small stage covered with old tires and propane tanks, car parts and tarps, musical instruments and microphones. Members of Fearless Leader, the evening's musical entertainment, lounge in bean bag chairs, instruments in hand.
Young people mill through the mall, buying snacks and sodas at a concession booth, mingling with one friend after another or just moving around in anticipation.
Most seem more interested in talking to pals than watching a comedy show. The audience maintains a dull roar of conversation as the music starts to play.
Then a young man takes the stage. In a T-shirt and red baseball hat, event-planner Beau Hodges looks more like an audience member than a youth pastor.
But the look -- combined with some comic jabs -- works. He gets the crowd's attention and introduces the evening's entertainment.
It's 8:10 p.m. on Sunday and the third Junk Yard Comedy Club is under way.
Four high school students will present stand-up comedy acts competing for cash prizes. Hodges, youth pastor at Soldotna First Assembly of God, organized the comedy club last year to give young comedians a venue for their performances and to offer community youth a place to gather and have fun. The event has been held twice in the past, both times at Soldotna First Assembly church, but this is the first time Hodges has advertised.
Originally, he planned for 600 attendees and seven comedians. The show is a little smaller than anticipated, with only four contestants and about 400 people in the audience. But size aside, the evening lives up to its promises.
The comedians keep the crowd in stitches. The jokes are familiar -- observational humor about cell phones, stereotypes, haircuts, parents, jobs and outsiders -- and the presentation is outstanding. The young jesters own the stage and show no signs of fright.
Between the acts, Fearless Leader pumps up the crowd with heavy alternative music. A few teens start a small mosh pit in front of the stage, jumping like the floor was made of stretched nylon and shoving into one another with playful roughness.
Hodges raffles off candy, gift certificates, a backpack, a skateboard and finally a snowboard.
At the end of the night, judges determine the winners of the show, with prizes reworked for the smaller number of contestants.
Philip Martin a junior at Soldotna High School wins $50 taking fourth place for his over-the-top performance that included impressions of recovering addicts, lamentation over the futility of math class and a bit with a squirrel puppet.
Two-time comedy club champion Mike Sturm, a Skyview junior, also earns $50 in third place for his "homeboy" attitude and cracks about the 'hood.
Soldotna's Alex Jackson places second, winning $100, for an act reminiscient of former Saturday Night Live stars Mike Myers and Adam Sandler, complete with heavy accents and an original song "Three Wheeler of Love."
Nikiski High's Kasi Morse grabs first prize, winning $150, after an act poking jabs at parents, teen-age hormones, Nikiski stereotypes and even the Clarion reporter in the audience.
After Morse's mock acceptance speech, the show is over.
The audience files out of the mall, resuming its conversations -- this time with lingering giggles over the show and a few tears of laughter -- and looking forward to the next show.
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