The Arctic Winter Games are over, but the Kenai Peninsula is still stuffed full of volunteers, and the Games left plenty of themed merchandise lying around, as well.
What to do? Throw a party at the Soldotna Sports Center and give away the stacks of surplus.
A large chunk of the nearly 2,000 Games volunteers returned to the site of the opening and closing ceremonies Tuesday evening for barbecued beef brisket, garlic bread, corn on the cob and ice cream. The dinner was preceded and followed by the merchandise handouts, and door prizes ranging from a set of camping gear to a mountain bike to a Hawaiian vacation for two.
The party was planned as a trading party, and volunteers bounced from table to table doing just that.
According to Games Volunteer Coordinator Kathy Moore, the trading party idea was meant to carry on the trading tradition exemplified by the pin-trading parties the athletes participated in during the Games.
“It’s so fun to see people doing this, people who don’t even know each other,” Moore said.
Volunteers took one blue and one pink ticket upon walking through the center’s doors. They then signed the pink ticket and dropped it in a bucket for the drawing. The blue ticket was good for one piece of Games gear, chosen by the half dozen volunteers handing out the goods.
Got the wrong size T-shirt? Trade for the right size. Want a pair of sweat pants? Find somebody who wants your hooded sweatshirt.
“Everything you see on the table top right now is leftover retail, and this will all be given away tonight,” volunteer Dave Lowery explained as he pointed to four tables piled high with sweatshirts, pants and T-shirts. Stacked under and around the tables were commemorative Coca-Cola bottles bearing the Arctic Winter Games insignia, sleeping bags, Games-themed water bottles and Alaska SeaLife Center posters.
“You hand your blue ticket to someone out here, and they’ll give you something,” he said. “It might not be your size, it might not be your color, but if you don’t like it, there’s 2,000 people out there go out there and get what you need. It makes the community get together.”
That volunteer community also spent some time recounting their Games experiences Tuesday. Lowery and his wife, for example, usually go Outside for winter but decided to stick around this winter to volunteer for the Games.
The choice paid off. The pair earned volunteer of the month designations early this year, which meant they were on the floor for the opening ceremonies.
“That moment was probably one of the most emotional moments I’ve had in a long time. The expressions on these kids’ faces, no matter where they were from, it was just phenomenal.”
The coming together of diverse Arctic communities stood out for others, as well, often in the smaller interactions.
Jim Dunn and his wife, Terry, of Kenai, were part of the hospitality team and spent a day at Soldotna Middle School hanging out with members of Team Greenland (“really nice kids”) and Team Northwest Territories. Their hospitality duties extended to make a memorable incidental that day.
“One of the coaches (of Team NWT) locked the keys in their rental car, so I had to go with him and go back to their bed and breakfast and help them get into their cars, so that was interesting” Jim said.
Terry got an oversized sweatshirt with her blue ticket but hadn’t traded it for anything by 7 p.m. The brisket distracted the couple.
“We were expecting hot dogs, so this is a nice treat,” Terry said.
That treat came courtesy of Agrium USA, which paid for the food, Kenai Peninsula Bed and Breakfast Association members, who served it, and Carrol Martin of the Diamond M Ranch, who cooked it with his crew. Martin has barbecued for large functions in the past, such as barbecues for 4-H or the Red Cross, but Tuesday’s event was a big deal.
“We’ve never served 2,000 people in an hour and a half before,” Martin said.
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