FAIRBANKS — As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.”
That’s certainly the case with the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, which wrap up tonight with the closing ceremonies at the Carlson Center.
Athletes and visitors will soon be going home. Dorm rooms will be converted back to classrooms, just in time for students and teachers to return to them Monday.
Volunteers will return back to their regular jobs. An event two years in the making and thousands upon thousands of hours of work will conclude, leaving behind memories that will last a lifetime for those involved.
And perhaps, even more.
“I always tell communities that once they host the Games, they will never be the same,” said Wendell Schiffler, vice president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, and who has been involved with various aspects of the games since 1982.
“They will be changed forever. It is the change that takes place in the volunteers and the community members, a transformation that takes place that will last forever.
“In talking to my friends and others in the community, people are starting to feel the ties of people leaving,” he said. “They’ve made friends, they love these kids, they’re hauling them around and talking with them. Bus drivers see them getting on and off the buses all the time, and they’re starting to take ownership and starting to understand what the spirit of the Games is all about.”
A big part of what made the games such a huge success was the enormous volunteer effort, as was evident by the sea of yellow volunteer coats around town this week. Many in the community hope that effort continues on.
“I’m hoping that Fairbanksans will have caught the volunteering bug in a way that goes forward to other organizations and programs,” said Brenda Riley, director of the Fairbanks Children’s Museum.
Volunteering for the Games has been a positive impact for many.
“For me, the lasting effect is getting to work with and know people that I might have never gotten the opportunity to,” said Karen Wilken, who co-chaired the social media committee. “The bonds created through volunteering will last far beyond the Games.”
Volunteers will be celebrated at a thank-you party from 3-6 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at the Pioneer Park Centennial Center. AWG 2014 General Manager Karen Lane said that planning for the party, as well as preparing for an AWG garage sale, is on her to-do list come Monday when the Games are over.
“There’s still work to do even though the Games will be over,” Lane said.
The impact on Fairbanks goes beyond the relationships and emotional aspect of the Games. The AWG Recycling
Legacy Project, for instance, is using the games to help promote future
recycling efforts in the community.
Contributions from Kinross Fort Knox Mine and the borough’s recycling commission will facilitate the purchase of recycling bins to be permanently located at public facilities owned by the borough, as well as some nonprofit
“I love the legacy projects that AWG did with the recycling bins, and that they get to stay here after the Games,” said Shelley McCool, of WILD 94.3 FM, who also is a volunteer for the game’s tourism committee. “Big win for Fairbanks!”
The other legacy projects include the Birch Hill Recreation Area biathlon range upgrades, ADA-compliant ramps at the Carlson Center and the Legacy Cauldron.
Residing outside the Carlson Center, the cauldron was created as a partnership between the Tanana Valley Youth Sports Foundation, Arctic Star donors, and generous donations of time and supplies from local design, engineering and construction firms in Fairbanks.
“This cauldron celebrates youth sports at the Games and will continue to inspire our young athletes well into the future,” During the groundbreaking ceremony, said Kent Karns, board president of the Tanana Valley Youth Sports Foundation, during the cauldron’s groundbreaking ceremony.
“Fairbanks has been my home for more than 40 years, so it’s been a delight to see the games come back here,” Shiffler said. “It’s sort of sad to see them go, but I know that spirit is going to continue on.”