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‘We knew we could do it’

Showtime!

Posted: Monday, March 06, 2006

 

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  Hobo Jim entertains the crowd with his Games theme song. Photos by M. Scott Moon

Dancers perform the greeting song to start the opening ceremony of the Arctic Winter Games on Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center.

Photos by M. Scott Moon

A now-infamous car ride to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, in 2002 finally paid off Sunday night for Jack Brown.

The organizer of the Kenai Peninsula’s bid to host the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, Brown and four others — Brown’s future wife, Debbie, Andrew Carmichael, Bill Grimm and Brandii O’Reagan — piled into one vehicle in order to hand-deliver the peninsula’s bid document to the Games’ International Committee.

 

Deb and Jack Brown cheer performers during the ceremony. They are among a small group of people who first worked to bring the Games to the Kenai Peninsula.

Photos by M. Scott Moon

“It was just five psychos driving 18 hours one way,” Brown said Sunday evening just minutes before the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Games began at the Soldotna Sports Center.

Debbie Brown was along for that ride. She gave her husband credit for turning what was just a trickle of an idea into a torrent of support for the event.

 

During a history of Alaska production, entertainers perform a skit depicting the state's oil boom.

Photos by M. Scott Moon

“He was the coach and the lead guy during the bid process,” she said.

Jack Brown said he believes it was that kind of fanatic local support for the Games that eventually won over the International Committee.

 

Hobo Jim entertains the crowd with his Games theme song.

Photos by M. Scott Moon

“All the folks who worked on this deserve credit. We knew we were the underdog from the beginning, so we had to work hard from the start,” he said.

Brown said that for him — along with a core group of supporters whose dogged determination came to fruition Sunday night — that effort was more than worth the thousands of hours of work that have gone into bringing the Games home.

And work it has been.

Pam Howard was part of a delegation of Kenai Peninsula residents who traveled to Nuuk, Greenland, and Iqaluit, Nunavut Territory, Canada for the 2002 Games. Before the opening ceremonies she said she has literally worked herself to sleep preparing for this year’s event.

 

Kelsey Shields and Katie Thornton sing Psalm 67 following an opening prayer.

Photos by M. Scott Moon

“The other day I had to pull over in the Safeway parking lot to take a nap on my way home,” she said, recalling some of the long days that have gone into getting the peninsula ready to host such a large international competition.

Now that the Games are finally here, Howard said it’s gratifying to see all the volunteers’ hard work paying off.

“It’s very rewarding,” she said. “We knew we could do it.”

Although the Games supporters who have been on board from the beginning all said they knew the Kenai Peninsula could pull off the event, some expressed a measure of disbelief as the pomp and circumstance of Sunday’s ceremony actually began to unfold.

“I almost didn’t think this day would arrive,” said Soldotna City Council member Jane Stein while greeting visitors at the door of the sports center. “But it’s finally here.”

The enthusiasm of local supporters of the Games was easy to see on the faces of the many who came together over the past four years to make the Games a reality. Included in that group was Rep. Mike Chenault, who stood just outside the center’s hospitality room laughing and trading commemorative pins with locals and international visitors alike.

Chenault attended the 2004 Games in Wood Buffalo, Alberta, and said he’s become an unabashed supporter of the Games. With this year making his Games attendance two in a row, Chenault said he plans to keep his streak going by attending future events, as well.

“If you’ve attended one, you know what it’s like,” he said. “I think it just really shows the camaraderie and hospitality of our northern regions.”

With all the work done to bring the Games to the peninsula, Chenault said Sunday that he was overjoyed to have the event finally off and running.

“Let’s let the Games begin,” he said.

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