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What a year, what a year. Thank God we can leave 2016 behind.

  • Author: Geoff Kirsch
  • Updated: January 1, 2017
  • Published January 1, 2017

A customer pays for a purchase at Herbal Outfitters on opening day. Marijuana retailer Herbal Outfitters opened its doors to customer for the first time in Valdez on Saturday, October 29, 2016. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

No doubt, 2016 was a banner year for Alaska news. The state's first retail marijuana shops opened (as did our first Krispy Kreme location — coincidence?); Alaska's winter got delivered to New York and the price of crude oil dropped to $31 a barrel, some $1,200 less than a 55-gallon keg of personal lubricant on Amazon. Here's a quick look back at the last year in the Last Frontier.


With a presidential endorsement, followed almost immediately by the arrest of her eldest son on domestic violence and weapons charges, 2016 kicked off with the re-emergence of Sarah Palin, or, as some call her, "She Who Shall Not Be Named." Actually, that's not fair, likening Palin to Voldemort, although even the Ministry of Magic can't deny: she's back.

Alaska awaits snow. Again.


Seven years after Senate Bill 58 named Feb. 2 Marmot Day in Alaska, and still no marmot to weigh in with a prognostication. That's so like our Legislature, to declare an official Marmot Day but then never name an official marmot? How are we supposed to schedule vacations without the opinion of a state-sanctioned rodent?

The Alaska Senate does, however, pass SB 157, enabling Dave & Buster's to open in Alaska. Unanimously. Two months later, the State House also passes it — again unanimously. Massive budget deficit? Unresolved.

Alaska awaits snow. Again.

Luke Sampson and Carl Knutson race side-by-side through the Anchorage Football Stadium during the 2016 Fur Rondy dog sled race in Anchorage, AK on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. The course was a short 3 miles this year going looping through the Anchorage Football Stadium before returning to downtown Anchorage. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)


Alaska Airlines buys Virgin America in a $2.6 billion corporate takeover. Interesting business plan, sacrificing a Virgin … whatever it takes to compete with JetBlue.

Lisa Murkowski is named one of the "top 10 fittest US senators." This bodes well for Alaska should matters of policy ever be settled by congressional arm wrestling tournaments. Quite honestly, things might be headed that way.

Alaska finally gives up on snow … for a second straight year.


On April 1, as part of a promotion by Mattel Inc., the capital of Alaska temporarily changes its name to UNO, like the card game — no joke. Inspired by this creative marketing, the city assembly considers a permanent change, from "Juneau" to "Ju-YES!" — now that's a joke.


In yet another cost-cutting move, BP Alaska puts its Midtown Anchorage headquarters up for sale. Maybe it'll become a Dave & Busters.


The Celebrity cruise ship Infinity crashes into the downtown Ketchikan dock, causing millions in damage — and millions more YouTube views. Don't they have parallel parking on the cruise ship driver's test?

A new Permanent Fund dividend bill limits payouts to $1,000. Now how are we supposed to buy ourselves new curved super-high-definition TVs? Those start at $1,279.99.


According to a state Department of Labor and Workforce Development report, Alaskans rank fourth in the nation for personal consumption. Come on. Is that the best we can do? Fourth? Let's buy ourselves those curved super-high-definition TVs, even if it means assuming credit card debt.


Alaska celebrates the first-ever Alaska Wild Salmon Day, Aug. 10, as officially declared by House Bill 128. Yes! Congratulations, wild Alaska salmon — you've come a long way, baby.

A king salmon that has returned to Ship Creek to spawn attempts to leap over a waterfall near the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery on Thursday, July 7, 2016.  (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)


Wildlife troopers charge three Wainwright residents with poaching musk ox in the western Brooks Range, when musk ox is blatantly better to cook sous vide.

Part of a two-month spate of bear attacks in Southeast Alaska, an Admiralty Island brown bear mauls a hunter from Kentucky. Biologists point to low salmon returns for the uptick in ursine violence, although in this last one, to be fair, the hunter practically reeked of 11 herbs and spices. You try and resist.


Nearly two years after Alaskans voted to legalize commercial cannabis, the state's first retail marijuana store opens: Herbal Outfitters, in Valdez. Doomsayers note, two months later and still no zombie apocalypse. Not that we're out of the weeds yet — pot zombies are notoriously difficult to motivate. Still, even if they do eventually drag themselves off the couch, they're sure to be really slow and easily distractible. So unless you smell like French fries or are the lead guitarist of Phish, you should be fine.

Michael Holcombe holds his first Herbal Outfitters purchase aloft. Holcombe was the marijuana retailer’s first customer. Marijuana retailer Herbal Outfitters opened its doors to customer for the first time in Valdez on Saturday, October 29, 2016. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)


Two men are arrested in Georgia, caught planning to attack a University of Alaska Fairbanks aurora research center in an attempt to "release souls." Really, all they were trying to do was Make America Great Again by deporting a bunch of illegal extraterrestrial aliens, whom they accuse of taking all the jobs in the abduction and mind-control industries.


Walker-Mallott Administration releases fiscal year 2018 budget. The plan includes freezing merit, step and cost-of-living increases for all state employees, as well as increases in health care costs — Merry Christmas!

Sculpted salmon collect snow on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in Turnagain. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)

On the bright side, Alaska seems to be experiencing winter — at least for now.

Geoff Kirsch is a Juneau freelance writer.