Halfway home. Cue the wrenches.
The leaders of the Iron Dog snowmachine race pulled into Nome on Tuesday for a day of rest, recuperation and repair before heading east toward the Fairbanks finish line Thursday morning.
Once again, the two top teams were close. Nick Olstad and Todd Minnick of Wasilla reached town first, pulling in at 3:27 p.m. Fifteen minutes later, defending champions Tyler Aklestad and Tyson Johnson arrived.
From the Big Lake start of the world's longest and toughest snowmachine race, one of these two teams has led the way.
Minnick, 37, in his 15th Iron Dog, is happy to be indoors. After a Big Lake start he called "extremely warm," temperatures have plunged.
By the time he and Olstad reached Rohn after crossing the Alaska Range, it was below zero. When they left the Interior town of McGrath on Monday, it was minus-42 and the gas pumps on their Polaris machines were freezing up. By Ophir, it was minus-52. By Unalakleet on the Norton Sound coast, the temperatures had climbed, but the wind was blowing hard.
"It's been a while since it's been this cold," said Minnick, who was an Iron Dog rookie in 2002. "It's so cold, it's hard to keep your focus. Your goggles are fogged up, and the snow dust is so bad it can be tough to see."
Winds on the 170-mile Seward Peninsula stretch from Koyuk to Nome were particularly strong, up to nearly 30 mph. "It was nice to get out of that," he said.
Minnick estimated the gas pump problems cost the team nearly 20 minutes — and the lead — in McGrath, though Minnick didn't mind letting someone else break trail for a while.
In his long Iron Dog career, Minnick has had a 45-minute lead in Nome and lost. He's also come from that far behind to win one of his two championships.
So even though he believes the winner will be one of the top three teams, Minnick isn't not counting his prize money yet.
"Anything can happen. There's a lot of tough racing left," he said, although the second half of the race involves more flat river-running than the trip to Nome. "You just gotta be clean, you can't make mistakes and you can't waste time."
Cory Davis, the 28-year-old six-time X-Games medalist from Soldotna, and his Canadian partner, Ryan Simons, were a somewhat surprising third, 22 minutes out of second place.
In their combined seven starts, Davis and Simons have only finished three times, including Davis' career-best fourth-place finish in 2011. He is the son of the retired Scott Davis, the driver whose seven wins tie him with John Faeo for the most in race history.
Nome is where teams can do repair working before resuming racing — but all the wrenching is done on the clock, which makes efficiency critical.
As of early Tuesday evening, 14 teams had scratched, leaving 21 still racing.
Top eight times into Nome
1) Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad, 3:27 p.m. Tuesday; 2) Tyson Johnson and Tyler
Aklestad, 3:42 p.m.; 3) Cory Davis and Ryan Simons, 4:04 p.m.; 4) Jason Gundersen and Josh Norum, 5:27 p.m.; 5) Robert Menne and Daniel Thibault, 5:47 p.m.; 6) Kris VanWingerden and Klinton VanWingerden, 5:52 p.m.; 7) Chad Gueco and Dusty VanMeter, 5:59 p.m.; 8) Micah Huss and Ryan Sottosanti, 6:01 p.m.
Radiohead and Billy Joel might not come to mind when you think of a wind quintet performance, but WindSync is on a mission to expand and modernize the repertoire with new arrangements that span genres.
Each musician, from the flutist to the bassoon player, helps modify the source music — which might have been originally written for a full orchestra, singers, piano or even a rock band.
"We put it all together and we end up with something that sometimes is poppy, sometimes has jazz influence, often draws heavily on the classical tradition, but it's sort of a different spin on that tradition. It takes extra work, but it's well worth it," said Kara LaMoure, WindSync bassoonist.
WindSync has gotten a lot of their recognition from videos of their performances of popular music, especially covers of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" and George Gershwin's "Summertime." In addition to new and popular music, WindSync also dips into jazz, folk and musical theater.
"For us, if we program top-40 music or anything that's considered a more popular genre of music it's because it's really a key component of our programming. So for us they're few and far between, but they are important because we do want to celebrate all genres," LaMoure said.
"We don't say, 'Oh we're classical musicians so we'll never play pop music.' We think of it as just part of our programming."
LaMoure said WindSync is influenced by American composers like Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, who incorporated different musical traditions in their work.
"We're really inspired by any music that tells a story or that can relate to a very wide demographic," LaMoure said. "We're exploring music that does that with a wide variety of influences: Melodies that can connect across wide audiences."
The original ensemble was born out of the Rice University music program. Two of the original members — Garrett Hudson on the flute and Anni Hochhalter on the horn — still perform with the group today. Based out of Houston, the current ensemble also includes Emily Tsai on the oboe, Julian Hernandez on the clarinet and Kara LaMoure on the bassoon. Eight years after getting their start, WindSync spends about 100 days out of the year touring across the U.S. and internationally.
"We are dedicated to expanding the quintet repertoire and making a difference in the communities we perform in," LaMoure said.
WindySync will be performing for students in the Anchorage School District. LaMoure said they want to engage the students through participation in their performance.
"We do 'Peter and the Wolf' in elementary schools all the time. When we do it we act out the story, we're running around the stage. We are even playing our instruments while we're running around the stage, so that gets crazy and intense," LaMoure said.
"We also introduce them to how sound is produced on our instruments. We want them to have the beginnings to the idea of how music works."
WindSync often strays from classical music performance decorum, something LaMoure said is intentional.
"In classical music there's a lot of issues of 'don't clap between the movements,' wear this specific kind of dress, or, you know, there's a certain etiquette that's expected," LaMoure said. "But for us we kind of want that connection with the music to be more immediate and personal. So if the response is organic then we're really happy."
Overall, the ensemble hopes to create a visual experience as well as a listening one.
"Even the most seasoned wind quintet fans will see something new and interesting to them," LaMoure said.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Discovery Theatre
Tickets: $40.25-$54.75 at alaskapac.centertix.net
Let me state at the outset that I am friends with one of Lisa Murkowski's siblings. But our friendship is based much more on a shared love of food than any political discourse. So when I write about Lisa, I'm writing from the perspective of someone who knows her only as a public figure.
Having said that let me say this: Would all Alaskans who are still fixated on how she got her job please get a life? I'm sure I'm not the only Alaskan who is sick and tired of the rant about how she's only our senator because her dad gave her the job. That was in 2002. In 2004, she won that seat on her own. And she did it again in 2010 in a historic write-in campaign. And she just did it again.
So Alaskans have had numerous chances to vote her out of office. Instead, they wanted her so much they gave her a win on a write-in ballot. And with a last name like Murkowski, that was a more daunting task than it might otherwise have seemed if her name had been Jones.
I probably disagree with Lisa as much, if not way more, than most Alaskans. Anyone who reads this column knows that we come from vastly different ideologies. Our opinions more often differ than align. But if I want to bring any of those points up, I am shooting myself in the foot if I start with a rant on how she initially got her job. Her dad gave it to her. Get over it. That happened 15 years ago and is relevant to nothing happening today. If you don't like what she's doing, start with what you don't like and build your case. But don't start with a foundation so old it crumbles at the first touch.
So let's talk now about some of our senator's recent votes. The no vote on Betsy DeVos got her a lot of publicity, most of it positive. On the other hand, there were those voices that said she voted no only after receiving permission from the Republican powers that be once they counted and knew they had enough votes without her. I want to believe the former. It being politics, I have the uncomfortable feeling it could very well be the latter. In the end, she had it both ways. By voting no, she pleased her constituents without endangering her political position in Congress.
Rumor had it that she would have also voted no on the (now former) nominee for labor secretary. It's hard to know what would have happened had he not withdrawn. To say he had a lot of opposition in Alaska is to put it mildly. So it would have been very interesting to see if she voted no in defiance of party leaders.
Whether you agree or disagree with her on these or other issues, it has nothing to do with the way she got her job in 2002. It has everything to do with how independent she is, if at all, of the Republican power structure. When she ran as a write-in candidate, she promised to represent all Alaskans no matter their political party. Some think she has totally reneged on that promise and only made it to keep her job. They feel that the minute she won, she ran back to the welcoming arms of the other Republicans in the Senate. Others feel that she has made a decent effort to represent all Alaskans even if the slant is toward a more conservative than liberal bent. They feel she has bucked the party line on issues like Planned Parenthood funding and deserves credit for taking the heat.
Whichever side of this debate you fall on, just remember one thing. It has not a gosh darn thing to do with how she got her job.
In case you haven't noticed over the past 15 years, the woman is a consummate politician. Whether she was initially handed the job or ran for it on her own, she would have been a political force in Alaska. And I'm guessing she'd have ended up representing us in some way or other because she is a talented politician who was going to be heard.
So let's officially bury the "Lisa was handed her job" moan and replace it with real criticism on those issues that matter to you and which you think she's getting wrong. If you bring up the nepotism thing, I promise my eyes will glaze over and I'll stop paying attention in an instant.
Elise Sereni Patkotak is the author of two memoirs about her life in Alaska available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.
PALMER — Relatives of 16-year-old Frank Woodford say he should have been in their care before he died, instead of living as a runaway tracked by a state case worker.
Woodford died in late June with a gunshot wound in his chest at a Wasilla house where he was staying, according to court documents.
Damien Peterson, the 19-year-old Big Lake man charged with second-degree murder in Woodford's death, entered a not-guilty plea in Palmer Superior Court Tuesday. Peterson told others he accidentally shot Woodford but the only witness told investigators Peterson instructed him to lie and say Woodford shot himself, according to a sworn trooper affidavit.
Troopers, citing a lack of evidence, closed their investigation into the teenager's death last year. They reopened it after another teen, David Grunwald, was found murdered along the Knik River in early December.
The two cases share several connections.
Peterson's 18-year-old brother, Devin, faces charges that he helped cover up Grunwald's murder. Another of the five teens charged in the murder — 19-year-old Austin Barrett — was the only other person in the room with Damien Peterson when Woodford was shot, court documents say.
Woodford's mother and grandparents sat in the front row Tuesday during Damien Peterson's arraignment hearing, wiping away tears.
Peterson's parents Alanah and Clive sat behind them. Grunwald's mother, Edie, sat next to Michelle Woodford. Grunwald's father, Ben, sat nearby.
Woodford's grandparents wanted custody of him and say they nearly had him home before he died in late June. Court documents indicate he was under a state case worker's supervision at the time of his death.
Barbara Wharton and Dan Ray said they planned for the 16-year-old to live with them and his mother in their Caswell Lakes home.
Instead, he ended up at a house on North Jasper Drive in Wasilla, where numerous teens crashed for brief periods, court documents say.
"They told us he was in a safe place," Wharton said after Tuesday's hearing. "But that safe place was a flop house."
Woodford's mother and grandmother said he had run away from the foster home where he was staying.
An Office of Children's Services case worker wouldn't tell the family where Woodford was, she said. "We drove around looking for him."
OCS director Christy Lawton did not immediately respond to a request for information about Woodford's case, or the division's policy regarding runaways.
Barrett told investigators that Peterson pointed the gun at Woodford's chest and pulled the trigger, according to charging documents in the murder case.
But Peterson's mother said Tuesday that she believes it was more likely Barrett did it.
"Damien is not a killer," Alanah Peterson said outside the courtroom before the hearing began. Barrett was "in both places," Peterson said, referring to Woodford and Grunwald's deaths.
Peterson told investigators he was handling the gun before Woodford started playing with it and shot himself, court documents say. His mother said he lied to protect Barrett.
Peterson remains jailed at Goose Creek Correctional Center on $500,000 cash bail with release to a court-appointed third-party custodian. His next court date is in April.
The state has big decisions to make about the Permanent Fund, mainly centered on splitting earnings among dividends, savings and state government operations.
Here's one more you may not have thought about—the conflict between long-term investment goals and the need for ready cash. Billions of dollars are on the line.
The fund has about $7 billion in paper profits that cannot be spent unless or until the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. cashes in the underlying investments.
The paper profits are neither fish nor fowl, as they are really not part of the $40 billion principal — which can't be spent — or the $10 billion earnings reserve, which is available for appropriation.
As Alaskans struggle with a gigantic deficit, there will be more political pressure to turn these billions of unrealized earnings into cash, making them available for appropriation.
For a fund that exists to benefit Alaskans today as well as all of those who are yet to come, this presents a challenge. It's easy to imagine a governor or powerful legislator could suggest informally to the corporation that assets be sold to generate short-term profits and boost the amount available for appropriation.
When the fund sells a stock, or bond or collects rent for office space, the profit goes into the earnings reserve. The fund has a long-term goal of earning 5 percent a year, after inflation, from a broad mix of worldwide investments.
When the fund began 40 years ago, it invested heavily in bonds, which paid a predictable rate of return. Its range of investments today are not nearly as predictable.
The tension over how long to hold onto billions in paper profits will grow as the Legislature and governor begin to think of the fund as the centerpiece of state revenue.
The expectation the fund has to produce some annual earnings has always existed, in part because that's where the money to pay the Permanent Fund dividend and inflation-proofing has come from, but lobbying to produce greater returns will intensify in the future.
Some uncertainty about when to take profits is recognizable by any investor. The stock market has surged since the election of President Donald Trump, generating paper profits for individuals and institutions.
The fund ended 2016 with a market value of $55.4 billion and climbed to $57.3 billion Monday, with a mixture of realized and unrealized earnings.
One advantage of limiting withdrawals by a set percent of market value—if a reasonable percentage is established—is that it would reduce some of the uncertainty about investment targets and limit political interference.
The Permanent Fund structure and management has performed well for decades, but this new period requires the Legislature and governor clarify their expectations about the trade-off between income and growth.
The four biggest stocks owned by the fund are Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Alphabet, parent company of Google. The total cost was about $400 million and as of the end of December, the holdings were priced at more than $600 million.
The decision to hold those stocks reflects the belief they will be worth more in the long run than the unrealized earnings.
The fund managers say they do not manage money to hit specific cash targets. I believe that, but I also think without clear safeguards, the pressure for them to think more about the immediate situation will increase.
Politics puts a premium on the present.
Columnist Dermot Cole can be reached at email@example.com.
The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser.
WASHINGTON — At one point or another, they each strode the sands of Iraq, fighting on the unforgiving battlefield of America's costliest war since Vietnam. Now all three will sit around the table in the White House Situation Room, steering a new president through the treacherous crosscurrents of a stormy world.
President Donald Trump's appointment of H.R. McMaster, an Army lieutenant general, as his new national security adviser creates a powerful troika of senior officers who served in Iraq, teaming him up with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, both retired four-star Marine generals. This administration is the first to have all three security jobs filled by military veterans at the same time.
The ascension of the three generals to political jobs at the National Security Council reflects the rise of a generation of military leaders that came of age during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Each officer saw up close what a losing war looked like and took away lessons about how to avoid repeating fatal mistakes. Each got to where he is today in part by bucking the military hierarchy.
"This generation of generals lived through some of the struggles, especially in the '04, '05, '06 time frame in Iraq when we weren't doing things right," said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., an Army veteran who served in Iraq. "They understand that security and military force are the pre-eminent requirement, but it's not sufficient. This generation of generals who grew up in the Iraq War probably understands that more than any previous generation."
Cotton was the one who persuaded the White House to consider McMaster, who became known over the years for questioning orthodox views of the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
"Donald Trump is an unconventional president, and I think it fits him well to have someone who for many years colored outside the lines and so many times was proven right," Cotton said.
While some critics worry about the prevalence of military officers in political posts, others have welcomed the three generals, hoping that they will serve as a brake on bad ideas.
"All three of them showed an independent streak and a talent that is in my view extraordinary, and I've known a hell of a lot of them over the years," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in an interview.
How much any of the three will be able to shape Trump's policies remains an open question. When the president considered reinstituting torture for the interrogation of terrorism suspects, Mattis objected and Trump backed down, saying he would defer to his defense secretary. But when the White House enacted a temporary ban on refugees and on any visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Kelly was not fully briefed until late in the process.
McMaster, 54, will have an office across the West Wing from Trump and will see him most among the group. He has the least Washington experience of the three, meaning he will have to learn on the job how to balance the various constituencies, including the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA and Congress. He will also have to get to know a president who, Cotton said, had never heard of McMaster just a week ago.
McMaster will also have to figure out how to handle Stephen K. Bannon, the president's chief strategist, who was given a seat on the Cabinet-level national security committee and has played a strong role in foreign policy so far. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday that McMaster would have authority to organize the national security team as he sees fit.
But the three generals are not known only for their experiences during war. McMaster and Mattis are both thought of as scholar-soldiers. The author of a dissertation examining the failures of the military leadership during Vietnam, McMaster has lately been running a command charged with rethinking the Army of the future. Mattis, 66, a student of history, is "just as likely to quote Cicero to you as Clausewitz," as former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates put it.
As the head of Southern Command, Kelly, 66, spent a lot of time thinking about how to protect the southern border and fight drug trafficking beyond traditional combat operations. He also represented the Marines on Capitol Hill, learning the byways of Congress.
"The wars clearly played a role in shaping all three men and also certainly in shaping their reputations," said Gates, who served Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. But, he added, "These are much broader, deeper people than just their experience in Iraq, and I find that all reassuring."
The three generals did not all overlap at the same time and place in Iraq. Mattis and Kelly grew up together in the Marine Corps, rising to four-star generals in a service that has only a handful of officers at that rank. Kelly served as assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division under Mattis during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. Kelly returned there in 2004 and a third time in 2008, when he was named the top U.S. commander in western Iraq.
While the Marines focused on Anbar province, McMaster and the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment concentrated on Tal Afar to the north, where in 2005 he introduced a new counterinsurgency strategy that bucked the military leadership's thinking and helped recapture the city. His success was later cited as a model in a counterinsurgency manual that Mattis had a role in drafting with Gen. David H. Petraeus and that inspired the larger strategy shift that turned the war around in 2007 and 2008.
McMaster's approach was not always appreciated by the military brass, however, and he was twice passed over for promotion to brigadier general. Gates personally intervened by summoning Petraeus to take over the promotion board and ensure that McMaster would receive his first star.
Mattis was not always in concert with superiors, either. He led the first Marines into Afghanistan after Sept. 11, but when he sought to pursue al-Qaida into the Tora Bora region, he was not given permission, and Osama bin Laden ultimately escaped. In Iraq, where Mattis' radio call sign was Chaos, reflecting the havoc he sought to rain down on enemies, Mattis objected when told to abort an offensive to retake Fallujah early in 2004 for what he considered political reasons.
Kelly is also known for speaking his mind. While leading Southern Command, he talked about the need to rebuild aging facilities at the Guantánamo Bay prison, despite the Obama administration's official policy that the detention center was about to close. He also called for more Navy ships to conduct counternarcotics patrols despite being repeatedly told to back down.
"He does what he thinks is right and is anything but politically correct," said James G. Stavridis, a retired admiral who served as NATO's top military commander and has known the general since 1979.
If all three share common experiences from the wars of the last 16 years, they were most personally felt by Kelly. In 2010, his son, Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, was killed when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan, making the father the highest-ranking officer to lose a son or daughter in either war.
"They'll bring a very sober, realistic, practical experience base to the discussions in the Situation Room because they've lived it," said Douglas E. Lute, a retired three-star Army general who was a senior national security aide to Bush and Obama.
David W. Barno, another retired lieutenant general and a former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the three would bring a more thoughtful approach to the use of force.
"They'll bring in some hard-nosed realism of what war looks like," Barno said. "It doesn't mean they shy away from using the military, but they will have a perspective no one else in the White House will have."
When Donald Trump gave a speech last Friday at Boeing's factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, unveiling Boeing's new 787 "Dreamliner," he congratulated Boeing for building the whole plane "right here" in South Carolina.
It's pure fantasy. I'll let you know why in a moment.
Trump also used the occasion to tout his "America First" economics, stating "our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports and more on products made here in the USA," and "we want products made by our workers in our factories stamped by those four magnificent words, 'Made in the USA.' "
To achieve this goal Trump would impose "a very substantial penalty" on companies that fired their workers and moved to another country to make a product, and then tried to sell it back to America. The carrot would be lower taxes and fewer regulations "that send our jobs to those other countries."
Trump seems utterly ignorant about global competition — and about what's really holding back American workers.
Start with Boeing's Dreamliner itself. It's not "made in the USA." It's assembled in the United States. But most of it parts come from overseas. Those foreign parts total almost a third of the cost of the entire plane.
• The Italian firm Alenia Aeronautica makes the center fuselage and horizontal stabilizers.
• The French firm Messier-Dowty makes the aircraft's landing gear and doors.
• The German firm Diehl Luftfahrt Elektronik supplies the main cabin lighting.
• The Swedish firm Saab Aerostructures makes the cargo access doors.
• The Japanese company Jamco makes parts for the lavatories, flight deck interiors and galleys.
• The French firm Thales makes its electrical power conversion system.
• Thales selected GS Yuasa, a Japanese firm, in 2005 to supply it with the system's lithium-ion batteries.
• The British company Rolls Royce makes many of the engines.
• A Canadian firm makes the movable trailing edge of the wings.
Notably, these companies don't pay their workers low wages. In fact, when you add in the value of health and pension benefits — either directly from these companies to their workers, or in the form of public benefits to which the companies contribute — most of these foreign workers get a better deal than do Boeing's workers. (The average wage for Boeing production and maintenance workers in South Carolina is $20.59 per hour, or $42,827 a year.) They also get more paid vacation days.
Not incidentally, these nations also provide most young people with excellent educations and technical training. They continuously upgrade the skills of their workers. And they offer universally available health care.
To pay for all this, these countries also impose higher tax rates on their corporations and wealthy individuals than does the United States. Their health, safety, environmental and labor regulations are also stricter. And they have stronger unions.
So why is so much of Boeing's Dreamliner coming from these high-wage, high-tax, high-cost places?
Because the parts made by workers in these countries are better, last longer and are more reliable than parts made anywhere else.
There's a lesson here.
The way to make the American workforce more competitive isn't to put economic walls around America. It's to invest more and invest better in the education and skills of Americans, in on-the-job training, in a health care system that reaches more of us and makes sure we stay healthy, in worker safety and in a clean environment. And to give workers a say in their companies through strong unions.
In other words, we get a first-class workforce by investing in the productive capacities of Americans — and rewarding them with high wages.
It's the exact opposite of what Trump is proposing.
By the way, the first delivery of the Dreamliner is scheduled to take place next year — to Singapore Airlines. Current orders also include Air France, British Airways and Mexico's flag carrier, Aeromexico.
In addition, Boeing is looking to China to buy as much as $1 trillion worth of its commercial airplanes over the next two decades, including wide-body jets like the 787 Dreamliner. China already accounts for a fifth of Boeing's sales.
But if Trump succeeds in putting an economic wall around America, these other nations' airlines may have second thoughts about buying from Boeing. They might choose an airplane from a country more open to their own exports — say, Europe's Airbus.
Trump's "America First" economics is pure demagoguery. Xenophobic grandstanding doesn't boost the competitiveness of American workers. Nor does it boost American companies.
At most, it boosts Trump.
Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," now available in paperback. His new film, "Inequality for All," is now out on Amazon, DVD and On Demand. His daily blog is at www.facebook.com/RBReich/.
The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com.
Southcentral's weather has been on a bit of a roller coaster lately – chilly, warmer, snow and sunshine.
The crazy weather hasn't slowed the seafood world.
"Even though it is subzero outside, the seafood world is ablaze," says Dannon Southall of 10th & M Seafoods. "The weather for the most part has been cooperating throughout the state, allowing fishermen to go out and target these winter treats. This week a couple of fresh seafood options are coming in from Southeast Alaska."
Get that boiling pot out: Fresh shrimp, crawfish
Southall says fresh side stripe shrimp and fresh troll-caught king salmon are both expected in the store. The kings average about 12 pounds, and there are plenty of white kings available this week.
For shrimp lovers, now is the time to act.
"This will be one of the last weeks to enjoy these wonderful cold-water shrimp as the season closes in Southeast at the end of the month," Southall says.
Gulf of Alaska seafood continues to roll in too, with Pacific cod fillets available for $5.95 per pound.
Southall says those gearing up for a celebrating Mardi Gras on Tuesday can get a taste of down-home Louisiana delivered to the far north. 10th & M is planning to have live and fresh boiled crawfish, along with alligator meat, fresh headed and cleaned catfish, and catfish fillets in the store.
The crawfish will arrive in Anchorage on Fat Tuesday, Southall says. Preorder by Thursday.
It seems like something new is always appearing at the Thankful Thursdays market. This week, Classy Glass Expressions will be part of the market with jewelry.
Liz Eldridge of The Spice & Tea Exchange is keeping with the Mardi Gras theme. She will have a variety of appropriate spices, including Cajun Seasoning, Crab and Shrimp Boil, Sweet Heat and some recipe bundles "to make for a fun and easy celebration," she says.
Nonessentials will be at the market with Alaska birch and berry syrups, plain banana bread, rhubarb chocolate chip banana bread, full-sized apple pies, honey, eggs and seasoned pistachios.
Farm 779 will have small batch brewed ginger and ginger turmeric kombucha, along with four varieties of coconut kefir, three options of kvass, spiced krauts and blends, body care products and other items.
Duane Clark will have grass-fed beef and yak meat, smoked salmon, side stripe shrimp, scallops, black cod, potatoes, carrots, salsa, zucchini relish and honey.
Alaska Pasta Co. will have a gluten-free fettuccine and five varieties of ravioli.
Three Bears Farm will have a large selection of jams, including tomato pepper, carrot and walnut.
Drool Central will have a variety of treats for dogs. Many products feature Alaska seafood and vegetables.
The thrice-weekly Center Market at The Mall at Sears has the taste of the U.S. Southwest this week.
Alex Davis and his family just returned from a vacation in New Mexico. ("It was our second family vacation since we started to farm 12 years ago," he says.) During the vacation, he took a side trip to Hatch, home of the famous peppers.
"I brought back three heat levels of Hatch sun-dried chili peppers," he says. "So if you want to shake the cold off with some internal heat, come get some peppers."
And, of course, there are lots of flavors of Alaska at Davis' booth, including his pasture-raised pork, storage vegetables, both goose and chicken eggs, fresh Alaska-grown live lettuce and spring mix, sprouts and microgreens from Alaska Sprouts, honey, grass-fed beef and barley products.
Earthworks Farm will be at all three markets with Alaska honey and body care products made from local honey and beeswax.
"If you are from out of town or entertaining guests this Fur Rondy, we have our popular gift tin sets and a recently added honeycomb soap gift pack that includes our honey soap and a hand-crocheted face-cloth decorated with a lovely lamp glass bee," owner Dee Barker says.
Alaska Seeds of Change will be at Wednesday's market from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with kale, bok choi, chives, chard, chervil and a leaf lettuce mix.
On Saturday, Rempel Family Farm will have yak meat and a variety of vegetables, including carrots, kohlrabi, winter squash and potatoes.
Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local farmers markets
Monday in the Valley: Colony Farmers Market, noon-6 p.m., 610 S. Valley Way, Palmer
Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Thursday in Anchorage: Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Friday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street
Saturday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street