FAIRBANKS — Greetings in three different Alaska Native languages — Inupiaq, Yupik and Koyukon Athabascan — by five young Native women garbed from head-to-toe in fur and bead-trimmed regalia grabbed the attention of a youthful audience at the Noel Wien Library on Tuesday afternoon.
All five are vying for the title of 2012 Miss World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.
Since Monday, the Miss WEIO queen contestants have been making appearances, giving interviews, touring and meeting and greeting lots of people around Fairbanks, with a bevy of chaperones in tow.
All have won queen titles in their own regions of the state. They are: Miss Top of the World, Ethel Toovak, 19, of Barrow; Miss Camai, Ashleigh Naneng, 18, of Bethel and Scammon Bay; Miss Arctic Circle, Denali Whiting, 20, of Kotzebue; Miss Fairbanks Native Association, Clara Perdue, 22, of Fairbanks, and Miss Tikigaq, Rosemary Berg, 22, of Point Hope.
Tuesday’s youthful audience listened intently during an informal program as each young woman described the ornate regalia she proudly wore, naming the family seamstresses who made it and the materials used, which included wolverine, wolf, musk ox, marten, sealskin, ugruk, beaver, mooseskin, muskrat, and black and white calfskin stitched into intricate geometric patterns.
Each contestant wore a unique headdress or crown made up of fur, beads, dentalium, ivory or jade, and each briefly explained their upcoming talent presentations, such as dancing or storytelling, before opening the floor to questions.
Of course, there were lots of questions from the young observers.
“Do you ever get hot in those parkas?” was followed by “What do you usually wear under your parkas?”
To the delight of all, the misses removed their outer garments to reveal colorful, patterned cotton kuspuks, also known as summer parkas.
Everyone enthusiastically joined in learning an Eskimo dance about building an igloo, and Berg demonstrated a male dancer’s stance with arms curled up.
“Be strong, show off your muscles,” she told the boys and then portrayed the more graceful movements of female dancers.
Naneng, who has participated in WEIO events in the past, took off her mukluks, and holding up her long fur parka on both sides, she demonstrated the one-foot high kick. And a sealskin Eskimo yo-yo, held high by moderator Susan Jones, was soon set spinning from Naneng’s high kick.
Today, the Miss WEIO contenders will have lunch at Presbyterian Hospitality House before undertaking an afternoon of personal interviews at Doyon, part of the judging component.
This evening, they will be on hand for the opening ceremony of the 2012 World Eskimo-Indian Olympic games at the Carlson Center. At 7:30 p.m., the Miss WEIO Talent presentation will be held in the Pioneer Room at the Carlson Center and is open to the public.
On Thursday, the young women will attend the Golden Citizen’s Lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. under the tent at Pioneer Park, and in the evening, they will give impromptu speeches in the Pioneer Room at the Carlson Center.
On Friday, the contestants will attend an FNA barbecue for elders and the homeless, and in the evening, the 51st Miss World Eskimo-Indian Olympics queen will be crowned at a coronation ceremony at approximately 8 p.m. at the Carlson Center.
On Saturday, the 2012 WEIO queen and her court will participate in the Golden Days Parade and spend the rest of the day at the WEIO games.
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.