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Anderson bluegrass celebrates 25 years of north-of-the-range picking

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Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 11:03 pm | Updated: 10:36 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

HEALY — The Anderson Bluegrass and Country Music Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this weekend, but new organizers are needed if it is going to happen again in 2013.

Carl and Karen Southwood and Michele Napoleone Nelson organized this event for the past nine years and are ready to take a break.

“The future is unknown at this moment,” Karen Southwood wrote in an email.

This also is a special year for the Anderson Clear Lions Club, the event sponsors. The club was chartered in September 1962, 50 years ago — the same year the city of Anderson was incorporated.

The festival takes place Friday-Sunday at Anderson, about six miles west of the Parks Highway south of Nenana.

Admission is $40 for the weekend, $20 for Friday, $20 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday. Military and seniors pay a discounted weekend rate of $35. Cash and checks only.

The festival begins 2 p.m. Friday and ends at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Camping is free with admission. There are more than 600 acres for camping and a quieter area is designated for family camping.

The list of performers is lengthy, but includes dance bands Friday and Saturday nights and favorites Sport ’n’ Woodies and Loose Gravel.

A fireworks show is planned at midnight Saturday. There will be food and craft vendors, a beer garden, showers and security parkwide.

For more information, email

Music at Denali

There were many magical moments at the Denali Music Festival last weekend.

This outreach from Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival touched people in the Denali Borough and brought people here from across the state.

One might have been when little Iris Wappel plucked the wind chimes to accompany the musical group Redshift during a workshop at the Murie Science and Learning Center. Or when toddler Jake Milone cradled a tiny violin and pulled a bow across the strings.

Who knew a violin could sound like a chirping bird? Or a saxaphone could imitate the sound of an elk bugling?

Or it might have been when members of Sweet Plantain raised glasses of Denali AHA Ale at the 49th State Brewing Company, after providing world-class performance for patrons there. A portion of the sales of that specialty beer went to support arts in the Denali Borough.

More likely it was when they occasionally slapped a mosquito during their performance on the outdoor deck. One of them even commented, “Mosquitoes need music too.”

Meanwhile, their three talented wives performed at the McKinley Chalet Resort at the same time.

Organizers couldn’t decide what to call them — the Sweetest Plantains? The Traveling Sisterhood of the Plantains? They became the Festival Ensemble.

More than 300 people provided a standing-room-only audience for the first-ever orchestra performance in the Denali Visitor Center auditorium on Saturday.

The festival’s string orchestra played “Denali,” a piece created by composer Stephen Lias for Denali National Park. The orchestra, led by music director Robert Franz, also performed a collection of fiddle tunes by featured fiddler Caitlin Warbelow.

It seemed so right to have all that beautiful music in this beautiful place.

The next day proved even more amazing.

The orchestra and a youth choir made up of students from Denali and Nenana, traveled the park road to Eielson Visitor Center and performed in another first-ever event.

The two groups could not have been more different.

Orchestra members, many here for the first time, were excited to be in the park. During the bus ride, they spotted several grizzly bears with cubs, caribou with huge antlers covered in velvet, moose with giant racks and those little white dots on the hillside that were Dall sheep.

Local students also enjoyed these sightings, but with less enthusiasm if the animal was far in the distance. A typical Alaska response from teens who routinely visit Denali National Park.

Together however, both groups made memorable music.

The “Denali” piece seemed even more meaningful played in the heart of the park.

Mid-song, a mew gull soared gracefully past the giant windows facing Mount McKinley. The mountain remained cloaked by clouds, yet the spectacular vast view provided a remarkable backdrop.

It was quite emotional for some of the audience — it was for me — especially when the teens started singing along with the orchestra on “You Raise Me Up.”

Candace and Darren Mudge, music teachers at the Denali Borough and Nenana, prepared the choir.

Summer reading

Tri-Valley Community Library’s final summer reading program is 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. After the program, there will be a BOGO (buy one get one free) Scholastic Book Fair and a season finale joint potluck with the Denali Preschool and Learning Center Summer Sports Club at the elementary end of the school.

Quilt auction

Denali quilters host their annual quilt auction 7-9 p.m. Saturday at Denali Education Center’s Charles Sheldon Center The theme is Denali D’Lights. This popular event also offers dessert and wine.

More quilts

Colorful quilts created by Anderson quilters cover the walls of the Denali Borough office this week.

The borough office regularly provides wall space to feature local artists.

Donate blood

Give the gift of life at a blood donation day 10 a.m. to 3 p.m today at the Tri-Valley Community Center. The day is sponsored by the Tri-Valley Fire Department. Contact Tyler Lauger at 347-0888 to make an appointment.

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