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Megan Edge,Loren Holmes
Ready for the two-foot high kick? The seal hop? Student athletes from across Alaska, some dressed in matching T-shirts and colorful kuspuks, were in Anchorage Thursday to represent their heritage, community, or school at Alaska's 44th annual Native Youth Olympics.
Tara Young

The Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, AK has a new baby musk ox!

Palmer's Musk Ox Farm, in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough north of Alaska's largest city, welcomed Jasper on Thursday, the first baby of the season. At birth, musk oxen weigh 18 to 24 pounds, and mother Aquarius was soon busy licking and tending to Japser, who worked to stand. The farm is a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve the animal that dates back to the ice age. Musk oxen once roamed the tundra beside such creatures as the wooly mammoth and saber-toothed tiger. The name musk ox name comes from the strong odor emitted by males to attract females during the seasonal rut.Musk oxen are more closely related to sheep and goats than oxen. Modern-day musk oxen are believed to have migrated from Siberia to North America up to 200,000 years ago. Along with the bison and the pronghorn, the musk ox is one of the few North American species to survive the Pleistocene/Holocene extinction event and to live to the present day. It is thought to have survived by finding ice-free areas away from prehistoric peoples.In the 1940s and 1950s, musk oxen were close to extinction. John Teal started the Musk Ox Project in Alaska to save the animals valued for their warm and soft fur. The first domestic musk ox farm was started in Fairbanks in 1965. As the herd grew each year, their qiviut was combed and spun into exquisitely soft yarn for garments. Today, the farm is located in the Matanuska Valley near Palmer, where you can go visit the new baby ox.In 2000, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska was home to about 4,000 musk oxen. In recent years, herds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and adjoining areas have declined. Alaska's musk ox harvest has increased steadily in recent years, growing from 98 animals in 2003 to 258 by 2007.  Males and females both have horns, but those of the bulls are larger. Males can weigh up to 800 pounds, while cows seldom reach 500 pounds.  They eat a variety of plants, including grasses, sedges, forbs, and woody plants.
Colleen Mondor

Aloft Over Alaska! (1940)

As reported a few days ago, the newsreel archive company British Pathé uploaded its entire collection of 85,000 films, in high resolution, to YouTube last week. Dated from 1896 to 1976, the collection included several films set in Alaska primarily from the middle of the 20th century, including several on topics of aviation.In "Aloft Over Alaska" the narrator announces the pending construction of a new highway from Canada through Alaska as pilots depart from British Columbia in an amphibious aircraft. Future plans, he intones, include a highway to "the Bering Straits" and "a tunnel 40 miles under the sea joining North America to Asia".British Pathé newsreels were once a dominant part of the movie theater experience in Great Britain and include countless subjects shot all over the world. The Alaska films in the release contain footage of "U.S. jets patrol Alaska (1951)," a 1955 look at the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, and a record of the 1953 Mount Spurr eruption.In order to find Alaskan films, viewers should search by not only the name of the state but also specific features, like "Mt. McKinley". That's how I found an outstanding two-and-a-half minute film from 1936 of a Pacific Alaska Airways flight out of Fairbanks that recorded the first complete set of photographs of Mt. McKinley's peaks.PAA was a subsidiary of Pan American World Airways that operated throughout Alaska. It was founded in 1932 and became completely absorbed in Pan American in 1941. This footage is from the National Geographic Society-Pan American Airways Mt. McKinley Flight Expedition during which famed mountaineer Bradford Washburn used a special aerial camera to take the first large-format photographs of the mountain. The Lockheed Electra was flown by S.E. Robbins, who was one of the first pilots to land on McKinley in 1932. Washburn later wrote about the expedition in 1938.The British Pathé film is the best way to appreciate what Robbins, Washburn and the rest of the expedition accomplished. Flying with the door removed with temperatures inside the aircraft of 14 below, the photographs (and film) showed the world the most complete picture of Mt. McKinley ever captured at the time. As the film makes clear, it was the vantage point of an aircraft that made those pictures possible, and the steady hand of a pilot like Robbins was critical. Now in newsreel footage, Alaska aviation was on its way to becoming famous around the world.Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young

The Miss Amazing pageant made its debut in Alaska last weekend at Dimond High School. Six contestants participated in this event created specifically for girls and women with physical and intellectual disabilities. Part of a national pageant program, Miss Amazing is open to girls and women age 5 and up. All that is needed to enter is documentation of disability and an entrance fee of five cans of food for the community. Anchorage contestants experience a range of disabilities, from fetal alcohol syndrome and epilepsy to Down syndrome and autism. There’s a Rising Star division for girls ages 5 to 9, designed to give younger entrants a feel for what pageants are all about. Then there are six different age divisions, as well as Shooting Star division for ages 36 and above. The pageant has several areas of competition: an interview with judges, introduction to the participants, talent show, and evening wear walk. The categories are intended to develop social interaction skills and boost self-confidence. Participants are judged on opportunities taken during the event to use as tools for self-improvement.Many of the contestants had never performed in front of a group before, and keeping focused was a challenge. But all were excited to have their hair and makeup done, and to parade their finest evening gowns. Contestant Bianca Pagel-Miller, age 9, was most excited about the evening wear portion of the night. “Dressing up is so much fun! And I’ll be so pretty,” she said, although she added that she was nervous about “looking at all of the people.” Rami Pagel, Bianca’s mom, was excited and anxious as well.“This will be the first time she’s in the spotlight by herself,” Pagel said. “So I’m a little nervous about what’s going to come out of her mouth. With Bianca you never know what you’re going to get, so tonight should be a hoot.”Pageant officials said all the Miss Amazing contestants are made to feel like winners, each receiving a trophy. Top-scoring “queens” from each division win a trophy and a sash and continue on to the national pageant, where they will compete against contestants from more than 30 other states.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Megan Edge
As house hunters in Anchorage desperately seek affordable homes, attractive, affordable real estate is readily available -- for those who are willing to live with a bit of a commute.
Kevin Klott
During peak steelhead fishing season in April and May, angling can be so productive that anglers have bragged to Miller that they’ve landed 10 to 20 fish in a day.
Colleen Mondor

Towed Behind an Airplane on Skis

Here's the latest stunt that maybe shouldn't have happened in the first place: a skier being towed behind a plane on a large snowfield. From the description, the skier is Reese Hanneman, the winner of the classic sprint at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships, and the towing took place somewhere on the Alaska Range. Hanneman later tweeted the video to his followers on Twitter.In case you were wondering, the Federal Aviation Regulations do address towing specifically, under Part 91. There is a section (FAR 91.309) regulating the towing of gliders and unpowered ultralight vehicles. And there is a subsequent regulation (FAR 91.311) that states "No pilot or civil aircraft may tow anything with that aircraft (other than under 91.309) except in accordance with terms of a certificate waiver issued by the Administrator." There's also a regulation against "careless and reckless" operation, which would probably apply here as well.So, either the pilot of this Aviat Husky holds special permission to pull Hanneman around the mountains, or he did well to make sure the videographer never captured his tail number in the video.If you think this looks a little too chilly, you can check out the wakeboarding-behind-an-aircraft video that was posted over at Flying Magazine's website last fall. It also included a champion athlete -- wakeboarding world champion Bernhard Hinterberger -- though it was filmed in Italy. In this case, Hinterberger actually became airborne, along with the aircraft. Maybe Hanneman and his pilot friend will take this as a challenge -- unless the FAA catches them first.Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young

Back in 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the organization that became Special Olympics, the world's largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. The first official Special Olympics Winter Games were held in 1977 in Colorado. Since Eunice’s daughter Maria Shriver was married at the time to a former Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, it makes sense that powerlifting was added to the roster of the Special Olympics competitions.Powerlifting consists of three lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift, all with the maximum weight possible. In a typical competition, an athlete has three attempts at each lift. Since Special Olympics athletes have a range of abilities and disabilities, they can choose to attempt all or only one of the lifts during the competition.Southside Strength and Fitness is an Anchorage gym that specializes in strength training. Hal and Marvel Lloyd have volunteered the gym and their time to help train the Special Olympics powerlifting team since becoming owners of Southside in 2010. The gym is its own little community, and the athletes working out there show support for their Special O colleagues. Bobby Hill, who has Down syndrome, has been powerlifting 15 years and is a top competitor in Alaska, with a cumulative lift of about 830 pounds over all three events during last year's state competition. He’s also known and loved in Anchorage as the mascot for the Anchorage Aces hockey team. Richard Renwick, another top Special Olympics athlete, is good pals with Bobby, and it’s not uncommon to hear them trash-talking as they recover from a set of lifts.Renwick has been powerlifting for 16 years, and over all three events in last year's state Special Olympics competition, he cumulatively powerlifted 924 pounds. Renwick began weightlifting in high school and says it helped him “get more stronger, more endurance, and more in shape.” The competition makes him happy. “I hear people cheering me on and stuff, and I feel that,” he said. Southside Strength and Fitness will host the qualifying meet for the 2014 Special Olympics state competition on May 10. The state games will be held at East High School in Anchorage on the first weekend in June. The Special O powerlifting team coaches are all volunteers. You can help by coaching, sponsoring an athlete, or by cheering them on at the competitions, which are open to the public.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Loren Holmes
Much of Alaska got to witness the first full lunar eclipse of 2014 Monday night, and in locations where the skies were clear, a stunning "blood moon" hovered in the heavens.
Shehla Anjum | First Alaskans
Artist Joel Isaak finds inspiration for his fish skin designs in his Alaska Native and European heritage.
Kim Sunée
Chicken soup with matzo balls, lovingly known by my Jewish friends as "Jewish penicillin," is traditionally served as part of the Jewish holiday Passover meal, which falls this year between April 14 and April 22.
Megan Edge
A state economic trends report says that the beer industry is bubbling in Alaska, but brewers say there is a lot for lawmakers to change if they want the momentum to continue.

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