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Alaska Dispatch News

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The first full-fledged free bike park in Southcentral Alaska isn’t in Anchorage.It’s in sleepy little Palmer, the city founded as a New Deal farm colony and now trying to leverage its increasingly popular mountain biking trails into a recreation destination.The Palmer Bike Park is tucked off the Old Glenn Highway at Matanuska River Park, located on a former overflow parking lot just north of a playground and broad grassy picnic area.Built last fall, the bike park is actually three in one, according to Nate Nicholls, executive director of the 150-member Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers, the group that's behind the park.The star feature is an almost 2-acre "pump track" with a jump line to get some air but also packed dirt mounds and undulating short wooden boardwalks -- “Nessie humps” -- that riders are supposed to travel by pumping and gliding instead of pedaling. Beyond are two different quarter-mile tracks that connect to an existing network of mountain bike trails -- a “flow trail” designed to give riders a feel for their bikes on a trail and a technical track to hone technical bike handling skills with a low log ride, rocky sections and tight turns.Read more: Palmer pioneers first free bike park in Southcentral Alaska
Bill Roth

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Three orphaned brown bear cubs -- which were rescued earlier this month on Kodiak Island after their mother was killed by a hunter -- wake up from a nap and begin wrestling with each other in an infirmary at the Alaska Zoo on Monday, May 11, 2015. The cubs are doing well in their recovery and will be moved to an outside exhibit soon.
Alaska Public Media

I Am An Iñupiaq Carver | INDIE ALASKA

INDIE ALASKA is an original video series produced by Alaska Public Media in partnership with PBS Digital Studios. The weekly series captures the diverse and colorful lifestyles of everyday Alaskans at work and at play. Together, these videos present a fresh and authentic look at living in Alaska.In this episode of Indie Alaska, we meet Iñupiaq artist Ross Schaeffer. After spending most of his life hunting, trapping and fishing around Kotzebue, Scaeffer transformed his lifestyle into creating artwork and carvings that blend traditional and modern techniques. Using age-old materials such as woolly mammoth bone, Ross works on carvings inspired by his culture and natural environment, and encourages young people to try artwork themselves.
Alaska Dispatch News
Thirla Alagala created a short animated film inspired by the Alaska Native totem poles in Saxman Native Village Totem Pole Park in Ketchikan. The film “Totem” was Alagala’s second year final project for the character animation program at the California Institute of the Arts. Alagala’s transformative visit to Ketchikan prompted her to make "Totem." “I absolutely respect all the hard work that goes into making totem poles and was so incredibly inspired by it. I thought I could create a really striking imagery and surrealism placing my film in Alaska and around totem poles,” Alagala said.To submit your videos to Alaska Dispatch News, contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Alaska Dispatch News

60 Minutes of Play, Every Day

Concerned with childhood obesity in Alaska, the Department of Health and Social Services initiated a public education campaign three years ago called Play Every Day. The intention was to raise awareness about health risks linked to childhood obesity. The campaign encourages Alaska families and children to be physically active for at least sixty minutes every day. This video shows that’s possible for children of all abilities.For more information about Play Every Day, check out the campaign's Facebook page.
Tara Young

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Seventeen-year-old Byron Nicholai of Toksook Bay, Alaska, was always an overachiever.He learned traditional Yup’ik drumming when he was in sixth grade, became leader of the Nelson Island High School drum group when he was a sophomore, is a star on the school basketball team and works to help his single mom with her five other kids. But Nicholai never thought he would be anything more then a regular teenager from a remote Alaska village.So the response to his Facebook fan page, "I Sing, You Dance," from teens all over Alaska -- and worldwide -- was unexpected.“My Facebook page, like all things, it started out small. It was just for my real friends to look at,” Nicholai said.He posted a video of himself singing to his Facebook profile and it took off. That’s when the idea for "I Sing, You Dance" came about. It was a way to share his singing with Alaska Native kids while encouraging them to get involved in cultural traditions.“You see a young person making a change and you want to do that too. Like, monkey-see, monkey-do. So if they see me making a change for my community, all the Alaska Natives, they’re going to get inspired. They’re going to start going to dance practices.”Nicolai mixes his video feed with traditional songs, songs he’s improvised and pop covers.“I try to mix the traditional with the modern, because teens today are so modern," Nicholai said. "They’re starting to think the traditional way is boring. So what if I mixed them? They would still be into the modern but they would learn more about the traditional way, too.”And it’s working. Nicholai is reaching teens. "I Sing, You Dance" has more than 15,000 followers on Facebook. He receives fan mail daily -- videos of kids playing traditional drums, notes that he has inspired them to go to dance practice. During the recent Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel, Nicholai was followed around by teenage fans who couldn’t get enough of him. Many of the girls were swooning after taking photos with the young singer.“A lot of young people I seen out there had their full attention on him, with their eyes wide open," Cama-i organizer Peter Atchak said of Nicholai’s solo performance at the festival. "They were really attentive, and that was really good to see.”Nicholai is just happy his music is having an impact.“You find out that people are talking about you positively, and it makes my heart smile. It tells me that I’m doing very good, tells me that I’m giving back to my community," he said. Watch this video on YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Alaska Dispatch News

Pixie's Birth

The Musk Ox Farm in Palmer has come alive this spring with its latest birth on April 27. Pixie Stix was born at 4:34 p.m. and quickly started finding her feet, which took all of thirteen minutes, according to farm director Mark Austin.Musk oxen date back to the Ice Age and are more closely related to sheep and goats than oxen and once roamed the tundra alongside saber-toothed tigers and wooly mammoths. Modern-day musk oxen are believed to have migrated from Siberia to North America up to 200,000 years ago. The Musk Ox Farm’s aim is to preserve these creatures.
Alaska Dispatch News
It's spring in Alaska and breakup has begun. Filmmaker David Brannan captured the beauty of the Tanana River as ice floes are carried downstream and frozen ocean ice finally melts.Breakup takes weeks to unfold, but this year most of the ice on the Tanana River went out on April 26, according to Brannan. Green buds and flourishing tundra fauna are soon on their way.For more breakup information, visit Alaska River Forecast Center’s website.
Alaska Dispatch News
At remote Round Island, a part of the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary in Southwest Alaska, thousands of walruses crowd the beaches.The site is one of the few where those rare human visitors can see a walrus in the wild.But earlier this year, citing budget issues, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game proposed cutting a 39-year-old monitoring program at the island, which in turn would've cast doubt on the future of tourist visits there.Filmmaker Jonathan VanBallenberghe visited the island, documenting the walruses and other wild animals that that inhabit it, and adding a plea to viewers to help preserve access to the sanctuary.After this film was posted, a group of donors -- ranging from the Alaska SeaLife Center to the Annenberg Foundation -- stepped forward to fund the program for 2015.
Alaska Dispatch News
Alaska Department of Fish & Game information officer Riley Woodford was in Juneau the last week of March and happened upon a scrap of hide at a pullout near Montana Creek. Woodford says he walked down to the creek and when he returned saw siskins collecting hair and fur.He set his camera down and waited for the birds to return, which they did minutes later. Woodford says, “They didn’t care about the camera. A few juncos were collecting as well.”Pine siskins, part of the finch family, are brown and streaky with touches of yellow on the wings and tail. These nomadic birds are seen across Alaska and Canada and sometimes across the western mountains and northern parts of the Lower 48.Pine siskins protect their eggs from the cold by tightly insulating their nests. These pine siskins, in a video from Fish and Game, collect hair from a deer hide for a spring nest.
Alaska Dispatch News
The saying "the odds are good but the goods are odd" about Alaska bachelors may never have been so true as it is in this throwback promo for Alaska Men magazine. In the video, outdoorsy hunks sporting tight dad jeans, mustaches and mullets ride horses, paraglide, shoot guns and lift weights while pining away for their dream frontier women.Brought to you by the website Everything is Terrible.
Alaska Public Media

Matzo Balls and the $75 Challenge | INDIE ALASKA

Indie Alaska is an original video series produced by Alaska Public Media in partnership with PBS Digital Studios. The weekly series captures the diverse and colorful lifestyles of everyday Alaskans at work and at play. Together, these videos present a fresh and authentic look at living in Alaska.In this episode, we meet the crafty Natasha Price. From knit hats to family dinners, homemade is kind of her thing.One reason for Price's DIY attitude, she says, is because living in Alaska is expensive enough without going out to eat every night. So after realizing that her family's monthly grocery bill was topping $600, she went on a quest to feed her family on $75 a week -- not an easy task in a state where nearly all food is shipped thousands of miles before reaching consumers.

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