Driving around Kenai it is quite common to see a moose, while seeing a bear is a little more rare, but motorists driving down Barnacle Way have been taking in an even more unusual spectacle: an 8-foot tall, 700-pound bull elk.
"This past weekend we had people stopping and taking pictures of it," said Joel Macrander, exalted ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 2425.
The elk he was referring to is a new bronze statue that, as of a few weeks ago, now adorns the entryway of the fraternal order's lodge. The replica is hard to miss with its true-to-life size, huge spread of antlers and head titled upward like the buck is actually bugling.
"One of our members had seen these elk on lodges in the Lower 48, so he tracked down where to get them, which was Oregon. We got it shipped from there, up to Seattle, and then on to Kenai," Macrander said.
Upon arrival, the lodge sought the help of local youth to prepare the replica for display.
"Kenai Central High School students painted it as a community service project. Then we got volunteers to help us lift it, and weld it down so it wouldn't fall," Macrander said.
The elk addition is part of a long list of renovations members have been making to the lodge over the past few years, in an effort to bolster membership.
"We weren't attracting new members, so we decided to make some changes. It was time to come out of the '70s appearance we had. We wanted to show people this lodge is a lot nicer place than how it looked," Macrander said.
Outside, in addition to the elk replica, the entire exterior of the building was repainted, roof repairs were made, the parking lot was resealed and the lines repainted, and flower beds were planted along the front facade.
"We did a lot of refurbishing to the inside too," Macrander said.
A new heating and cooling system was added, the entire interior was repainted, the bathrooms were completely remodeled, and the kitchen area was redone, including replacement of the grill.
"A donor also gave us some 100-year-old, tongue-and-groove oak that we put up all around the bar," Macrander added.
The changes have already increased membership slightly, according to Macrander, and the lodge is hoping more people will consider joining after this weekend's grand re-opening ceremony, Saturday at 6 p.m.
"The lodge is only open to members, but people can come by and learn what we're about, and if they're interested, they can join," he said.
Macrander would like to see the lodge's membership swell, because the more members they have, the more they can do for the community.
"Throughout the year we are involved in a lot of things. Last year we handed out $6,250 in scholarships at Kenai Central High School and another $1,000 at Nikiski High School," he said.
The lodge will be presenting a Flag Day celebration at Coral Seymour Memorial Park on June 13 before a Peninsula Oilers baseball game.
"We, along with the Soldotna Elks, have purchased the park that night, so admission is free to everyone," Macrander said.
The lodge also has a golf tournament coming up on June 20 at the Kenai Golf Course, and next month they'll have a float in the Fourth of July parade. Later in the year, the lodge hosts an annual Halloween party for kids, so they can get their treats without being in the cold.
"We're very involved in the community -- from the youth, to the elderly, to veterans -- we try to have a good effect," Macrander said.
For more information on Elks Lodge No. 2425, or to become a member, call 283-7776.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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