National Park Service Centennial activities this week

The National Park Service’s Centennial year is under way, and Alaska’s national parks are kicking off a series of special events with three activities this week.

Denali National Park launches the NPS Centennial with its annual Winterfest, set for February 24 – 28. Activities include music, ice carving, dog sled rides, a guided ski event, and presentations on mountaineering, permafrost and glacier monitoring. A full schedule is at http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/winterfest.htm

Anchorage-based Centennial activities start this coming weekend in conjunction with the Fur Rendezvous celebration. The NPS along with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and other partners will host a program on Alaska’s trapping history and heritage at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center on February 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A series of presentations and hands-on workshops are planned; more information is available at http://www.nps.gov/akso/connect/newsreleases/2-22-16-trapping-history.cfm

A team of NPS employees and aspiring amateur snow carvers will put a very public face to the Centennial as they participate in the Anchorage Fur Rondy snow sculpture event. The snow sculpture’s shape will mimic Denali, the tallest peak in North America, and incorporate the NPS Centennial logo. The carving began February 20 and the completed work will be judged on February 28 along Ship Creek Avenue near the Comfort Inn.

“As the National Park Service moves into its second century, we’re recommitting to the exemplary stewardship and public enjoyment of the national parks, and promoting contributions that parks and programs make to communities in the form of economic growth, historic preservation, science and innovation,” said NPS-Alaska Regional Director Bert Frost.

“Our Centennial special events will highlight key work done with partners and encourage Alaskans to visit and have fun in their parks in 2016, but the invitation to visit and enjoy Alaska’s national parks is open-ended,” he said.

Other key events set for 2016 include opening two new facilities and public events focusing on science and the arts.

On May 6, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park will open the historic Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum. The event will include a special dedication, a ribbon cutting ceremony, free tours, and more. The building was donated to the park in 2008 by the Rasmuson Foundation as part of the Rapuzzi Collection, an array of 30,000 gold rush era objects, and five buildings. “Jeff. Smiths Parlor” became famous in 1898 as base of operations for notorious swindler Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and his gang. In 1935, Martin Itjen converted the building into the “Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum,” a homespun tourist attraction featuring animatronic mannequins and a wildlife diorama centered on two moose locked in combat. The Jeff. Smiths Parlor is a noteworthy addition to the park as it represents not only gold rush history but also the development of early Alaskan tourism. The full schedule of events will be on-line at go.nps.gov/soapysmith.

On August 25, the actual 100th birthday of the National Park Service, Glacier Bay National Park will welcome tribal groups and others to the opening events for the Huna Tribal House. Xúnaa Shuká Hít – roughly translated as “Huna Ancestor’s House” — will be the first permanent clan house in Glacier Bay since Tlingit villages were destroyed by an advancing glacier more than 250 years ago. A long- awaited dream, it will be a gathering place where tribal members can reconnect with their homeland through ceremonies, workshops, camps, tribal meetings and other events. It will also provide park visitors with opportunities to learn about Huna Tlingit history, culture, and life ways. The Hoonah Indian Association and National Park Service have worked closely with a team of clan leaders, craftsmen, architects, and cultural resource specialists to design the building that reflects traditional styles but meets the needs of contemporary tribal members as well as park visitors. http://www.nps.gov/glba/learn/historyculture/huna-tribal-house-project.htm

On October 2, the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra will perform on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The National Park Service has, for several years, worked with composer Stephen Lias to bring classical composers to national parks as part of the nationwide Artists in the Park program. The performance will feature both contemporary and traditional classical compositions inspired by national parks, including Gates of the Arctic, Denali, and Grand Canyon, and will include projection of still and video images from these and other national park.

October 19-20, there will be a NPS Science Symposium at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The symposium will focus on how science and scholarship have shaped the last 100 years of park management, and will look forward to the next century of research and scholarship in parks.

National parks in Alaska encompass about 54 million acres, and host more than 2.6 million people every year. Further information about the NPS parks and programs in Alaska is available at www.nps.gov/alaska.

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