Denali’s annual community-wide Winterfest celebration will happen Feb. 21-23, once again offering activities for all ages and interests.
Denali Education Center always kicks off the weekend with a special 6 p.m. gathering at the McKinley Park Community Center, just off Milepost 230 Parks Highway. The evening will feature live music, local art and a potluck. Bring a shareable appetizer or dessert to add to the culinary offerings. The evening is also presented by Denali’s Zero Landfill Initiative, so bring your own plates, silverware and personal beverages.
On Feb. 22, activities shift to Denali National Park. The day begins with youth cross-country ski races at Riley Creek Campground. Skiers between the ages of 8 to 18 are invited to enter the contests for skate ski, classic ski or relay. The 0.8 km loop track will open for preview at 10 a.m. Bring your own equipment and check in by 10:30 a.m. The Denali Junior Nordic Ski Club and Nenana’s Ski Club regularly attend this event.
Meanwhile, snow block sculpting takes place 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of the Denali Visitor Center. Sign up to give it a try and pick up sculpting tools at the Murie Science and Learning Center. Judging begins at 3 p.m.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., go to the Winter Visitor Center Indoor Picnic Area, adjacent to the MSLC, and check out the “Our Winter World” exhibits, presented by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
Guided winter walks will begin here at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.
Discover snow in the taiga forest. Learn about the layers in a snow pit and what those layers mean for animals, plants and people.
Special kids activities about winter are set for 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at Denali’s Winter Visitor Center. At the same time, in an adjacent classroom, a park ranger will talk about the physical and mental endurance needed to overcome winter challenges.
A campfire and s’mores will be available noon to 2 p.m. just outside the winter visitor center. A national park firefighter will be there to meet you.
You can also visit with park staff and sled dogs at the historic Upper Savage River ranger patrol cabin. Park at the Mountain Vista Rest area at Mile 12 and walk, ski, or snowshoe 1/4-mile to the cabin.
A guided ski tour leaves from the Winter Visitor Center Indoor picnic area at 1 p.m. for a two hour ski of a two- to three-mile loop. Participants should be comfortable skiing on ungroomed tracks and backcountry terrain. A guided snowshoe walk leaves at the same time. Snowshoes are available for checkout.
At 5 p.m. the action moves to the Tri-Valley Community Center in Healy. Come for a community spaghetti dinner 5-6:30 p.m. At 6:15 p.m. Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker will announce the mayor’s community service award winner. From 6:30-8:30 p.m. all ages are welcome to play bingo. Winners will collect prizes from local winter community businesses.
If it’s a clear night, the park’s night sky technician will be at the Mountain Vista parking lot at 8:30 p.m. to point out constellations, planets and maybe even the northern lights.
At 9 p.m. the celebration continues at the Totem Bar with a special Denali Game Night featuring pool, foosball, Pac-Man, X-box games, over-sized Jenga and more. The Denali Chamber of Commerce hosts this event and promises lots of prizes. The Totem Inn is also offering use of their new swimming pool to Denali borough residents, for free from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
On Feb. 23, from 2-4 p.m., the Tri-Valley Community Library hosts a Bigfoot Fest for families. Hone your Bigfoot hunting skills with a scavenger hunt. Make your own Bigfoot feet and run an obstacle course. Don’t forget to bring your sleeping bag and pillow so you can relax and watch the movie “Smallfoot.”
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.