FAIRBANKS -- Police at Fairbanks International Airport helped pour a lot of booze Saturday but nobody was drinking it.
Dozens of people took turns at an airport parking lot dumping bootleg whiskey into two 55-gallon drums in an annual event police call the "Big Pour." The more than 20 gallons of illegal alcohol was intended for use in dry rural villages but was seized during the past year.
"I think the goal is to bring public awareness of the epidemic that's going on in villages in rural Alaska," Airport Police Deputy Chief Dan Grimes told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "We know we're only scratching the surface and the more the public knows, the more they can help."
The take included more than 100 plastic bottles of R&R Canadian whiskey. Its low price and easy portability make it a preferred purchase for bootleggers. A bottle bought in Fairbanks for about $12 can sell for $350 in some dry villages, said officer Fan Burge.
Whiskey was not the only beverage dumped. Mead, light beer, vodka and rum were among those that made the booze mix.
Bootleggers have tried to smuggle out bottles by baking them into loaves of bread or pans of lasagna. They often open up bottles and squeeze air out of plastic bottles to keep the liquid from sloshing.
"The creativity of folks is interesting, to say the least," said officer Roger Stevener.
Alice Burge, a member of the Alaska Federation of Natives Elders Council, said alcoholism contributes to many rural problems, including suicide. Communities such as Fairbanks, where bootlegged alcohol is purchased, must address the problem, she said.
In Western Alaska, nearly 60 percent of violent crimes are tied to alcohol, Burge said.
Alcohol poured out Saturday will be destroyed during fire training exercises, Stevener said.