Friends of the SS Nenana hope visitors to Pioneer Park over Memorial Day will help raise funds to renovate and restore the historic riverboat to its former glory.
Organizers will set up a booth adjacent to the riverboat near Gold Rush Town on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, a historical film showing the SS Nenana and it’s most recent restoration, will be shown in Historical Film Cabin No. 7. On Memorial Day, organizers will be in that cabin instead of at an outside booth.
A special picnic basket auction will begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday with the expertise of local auctioneer Joseph Campbell of Fairbanks Auction Co. during the Family Picnic Day at Pioneer Park. The baskets to be auctioned include a dinner cruise on the Sternwheeler Tanana Chief, an Arctic Circle Fly and Drive Adventure by Northern Alaska Tour Company, a drive your own dog team adventure by Arctic Dog Adventure Co and more.
All profits will be used to fund future restoration projects to help open the SS Nenana to the public again.
The SS Nenana is one of only three steam-powered passenger sternwheelers of any kind left in the U.S. The vessel was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 5, 1989, and has been added to the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties.
Originally built in 1933 for the Alaska Railroad and service on the Yukon, Nenana and Tanana rivers, it carried military cargoes during World War II and was retired in 1955. It ended up at Pioneer Park, but years of neglect and deterioration led the Fairbanks North Star Borough to block all access to the riverboat in April 2018 due to safety concerns.
For more information on the group seeking to restore the riverboat, see friendsofssnenana.com. There is also a full day of special activities planned at Pioneer Park May 25-27. See the list here: bit.ly/2WenaYx
Museum Day offers activities all over town, from local museums to visitor centers on Saturday.
From noon-5 p.m., go to any participating venue marked with blue and yellow balloons and pick up a map that shows all the locations. There’s a fun quiz to tackle and of course, prizes to be won.
This is an excellent opportunity to take a free walking tour of the Clay Street Cemetery near downtown Fairbanks. Experts Joan Skilbred and Aldean Kilbourn of the Fairbanks Genealogical Society will meet you at the Clay Street gate at 11 a.m. and again at 3 p.m.
Other participating venues include the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, Community and Dog Mushing Museum, all downtown; Creamer’s Field in the College Road area; the Fairbanks Folk School, Harding Railroad Car, Kitty Hensley House, Pioneer Air Museum, Pioneer Museum, Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, Wickersham House Museum at Pioneer Park; and the Ruth Burnett Sport Fish Hatchery on Wilbur Street.
Plan a busy and fun day, learning about natural and human history in Interior Alaska.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.