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Archive for the ‘(Mat-Su) Valley’ Category

Injury to Davis and Damage to Snowmachines Caused Iron Dog Champs to Scratch

Posted by Dr. Fay on February 24, 2010

Todd Palin and Scott Davis Unloading Their Snowmachines

Davis/Palin warming up before 2010 Tesoro Iron Dog race

Davis/Palin waiting for start signal

And they were off!

On Monday, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reported that the Davis/Palin team had withdrawn from the 2010 Tesoro Iron Dog race due to an injury sustained by Davis during an accident:

As of early Monday evening, five teams were forced to bow out of the 27th annual race that leads teams from Big Lake to Nome and on to Fairbanks. Among that group is the team of past Iron Dog champions, Scott Davis and Todd Palin, who officially scratched in Puntilla Lake.

Iron Dog officials confirmed Monday morning that Davis injured his back about 30 miles past Puntilla Lake late Sunday evening. The full extent of the injury had not been reported to Iron Dog headquarters, but Davis and Palin did have to make their way back to Puntilla Lake and had since returned to Big Lake.

The Peninsula Clarion added some initial details on Tuesday as they reported:

In the Pro Class, Soldotna’s Scott Davis and Wasilla’s Todd Palin scratched due to a variety of factors, according to Regina Daniels, the wife of Davis. Davis has seven Iron Dog titles. He is tied with John Faeo for the most wins in race history. Palin has four titles.

Daniels said both Palin and Davis crashed in separate accidents going into Skwentna, which is the first checkpoint in the race that goes from Wasilla to Nome to Fairbanks.

Daniels said the crashes caused damange to snowmachines and caused the pair to lose time. The pair rode ahead to Puntilla, but there decided to scratch.

The cause of the scratch was listed as injury, but Daniels said Davis’ aching back was just one of the factors that caused the duo to scratch. She said Davis’ back injury was not severe, because the pair rode 300 miles back toward Wasilla on Monday after scratching.

This report is consistent with Governor Palin’s tweet:

At the time the decision was made to withdraw from the race, the Davis/Palin team was showing up in Position Number 1 on the Iron Dog 2010 GPS Tracking page. Alerted by @TraceyPorreca’s tweet (see below), I saw this personally by following the link to the tracking page.

So at the time they withdrew because of equipment problems, they stood a very good chance of winning the race. They had drawn a starting position of 22, from which they had raced to the head of the pack. It must have been a heart-wrenching decision to withdraw from the race and was certainly made with due consideration of all factors involved.

There is always another year, another race, and another championship. And we are here to cheer them on!

Posted in (Mat-Su) Valley, Big Lake, Scott Davis, snowmachines, Todd Palin | Leave a Comment »

Warmer-Than-Usual Temperatures Challenge Iron Dog Racers

Posted by Dr. Fay on February 21, 2010

The annual Iron Dog competition started at 1PM Alaska time (5 PM EST) today.  Todd Palin’s team drew the Number 22 position, which meant they were the 22nd team to start.  By 4 PM (8 PM EST), they had moved up to 19th place.  The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reports:

While many in the Valley are enjoying nearly balmy temperatures, the warmer-than-usual winter was not welcome for the dozens of snowmachiners gathered here Sunday to start the 27th Iron Dog snowmachine race. Amid melting ice and snow with temperatures well above freezing, 29 pro-class Iron Dog competitors sped off the lake and into the trees to start race.

Racers and spectators began showing up early to discover large pools of overflow on Big Lake. Further down the lake where the racers head into the trees, the snow is gone and a mostly bare trail is all that was left.


As the 1 p.m. start neared, the racer staging area was buzzing with activity. Racers hugged family members, put tape on their faces and last-minute sled checks were in progress. The team of Wasilla racers James Spikes and teammate Scott Richter sat on their sleds waiting for their turn to head down the starting chute.

Spikes, who is racing his third race, has a new partner and has switched from Ski Doo to Arctic Cat, but as with most racers, he was more concerned with trail conditions than anything else.

At 1 p.m. the green flag dropped and the No. 2 team of Jeremy Neeser and Ryan Scottosanti lead the charge to Fairbanks. The two-man racing teams were then released in two-minute intervals. By 4 p.m., the No. 2 team had dropped to 13th place, and Aklestad and Johnson were in the lead with last year’s winners Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad close behind. Bringing up the third position was the team of Bradley Helwig and Eric Quam. The team of Todd Palin and Scott Davis was running in 19th place.

Posted in (Mat-Su) Valley, Alaska, Governor Sarah Palin, Iron Dog, Todd Palin | 3 Comments »

VWRC Lincoln Day Dinner

Posted by Dr. Fay on February 19, 2010

By Tracey Porreca – Finding Myself in Alaska

Every year, Women’s Repulican Clubs around the United States organize Lincoln Day Dinners. These dinners are the primary annual celebration and fundraising event of many state and county organizations of the Republican Party in the United States. Because our club, the Valley Republican Women’s Club, was chartered less than a year ago, we weren’t in a position to organize a dinner last year, but this year we decided to jump in the fray and put one on. And what an event it was! From the venue, to the attendees, to our keynote speaker Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, everything just seemed to fall into place. We had many dignitaries and prominent individuals in the room, as well as some great patriots. Now, I was a nervous wreck because I wanted so much for this event to be perfect. I’ve spoken to groups of 2,000 or 3,000 but was more nervous about this event than any other I’ve been a part of. I have to say, we did a great job!

We held the event at Settler’s Bay Lodge. I cannot say enough good things about the venue and the people who run it. I was a caterer when I was younger, and also managed a restaurant, and I know professional when I see it. These guys are top notch. If you ever have a chance to come to Wasilla, I highly recommend their restaurant – beautiful views and excellent food. Here is the room, all decked out.

The view from the room was gorgeous

Julie is our Vice President this year and she did a wonderful job organizing our silent auction items before the event and collecting funds afterward. Julie and other board members were on hand to keep everything running smoothly.

Our 2009 President Gayle Ann and her husband Daniel looked great

As the sun set, everyone filed into the room and the evening would begin soon – look at that view!

Sarah Palin’s mom, Sally Heath, and club secretary Ivy arrived and took their seats

Governor Sean Parnell took his seat and Sarah Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, came over to chat and catch up

The show is on and it’s my turn to welcome everyone and get things started

Julie read a message from US Senator Lisa Murkowski who was not able to attend (she is busy in Washington DC dealing with the greenies)

Alaska State Representative for District 14 Wes Keller gave the invocation

Next, the Mayor for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, our own Talis Colberg, gave a whitty introduction of the governor

Finally, we heard a wonderful message from Governor Sean Parnell. Check out the videos below to see clips of his message

We were honored to have the governor as our keynote speaker and the club gave him a gift

Our board with the Governor – myself, Julie, the Governor, Ivy, and Carol.

I was honored to have my photo with the governor

The governor had to leave for another event and after a short break, Alaska Senator Linda Menard gave a legislative update

We then had a little fun. We announced the winners of the silent auction items, then had a live auction with Don Benson as the auctioneer and I helped him point out bidders. We auctioned a glacier landing and flight seeing tour through Blue Ice Aviation donated by Wes Keller.

Here are some of the videos of the governor’s speech

On Opportunity

On Republican Principles

On Healthcare Reform

For more videos from Governor Parnell, please click here.

I hope you all have had a feel for what the evening was like. It was a wonderful event and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to share it with you!

– To see this post and others by Tracey Porreca, please check out Finding Myself In Alaska

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Posted in (Mat-Su) Valley, Alaska, Chuck Heath, Governor Sean Parnell, Linda Menard, Lisa Murkowski, Sally Heath, Valley Republican Women's Club, Wes Keller | 2 Comments »

The Christmas Friendship Dinner Was a Huge Success

Posted by Dr. Fay on December 26, 2009

By Tracey Porreca – Finding Myself in Alaska

I sit here in amazement at what a wonderful event it was that just took place. The Christmas Friendship Dinner held in Wasilla, Alaska is truly unique. I’ve never seen an event of this size headed up by a group of caring citizens, and not a major organization. They all know what needs to happen, and they get it done. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with members of this group that have been doing this for years. I want to say this to them, and to anyone reading this so you all will know, that this is what makes our community so wonderfully special. I send blessings to all my local friends, and to all those whom I’ve met through the internet this year. Below is a copy of an article from The Frontiersman,our local valley newspaper. My only comment would be that the writer is not quite correct – our celebration was not about Sarah as he said, but it’s not about Santa either, as the article suggests. The celebration of CHRISTmas is about CHRIST. After all, he is the reason for the season! Please take the opportunity to look over these photos, as well as the attached article. God bless everyone, and Merry Christmas!

Christmas Friendship Dinner dubbed ‘best ever’

Published on Friday, December 25, 2009 3:34 PM AKST
WASILLA — Not even Sarah Palin could upstage Santa Claus.

As the former vice-presidential candidate served up mashed potatoes and turkey to a long line of hungry visitors, Santa was still wide awake after pulling an all-nighter delivering gifts around the world. Both were all smiles as they chatted with and served up food and presents to hundreds at the 18th annual Christmas Friendship Dinner at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center.

“No, no, no, not tired at all,” Santa said. “All that cocoa last night, and with all the cookies and chocolate, I’m wide awake.”

While Palin has been making national headlines since the release of her best-selling memoir, “Going Rogue,” there were no mobs of well-wishers, protesters or media. Many of the attendees were glad to see her and husband Todd participating in a hometown event, but said, at least on Christmas, Santa was the No. 1 celebrity at the sports center on Christmas.

“The food is good, the people are good and it’s good to see people you haven’t seen in while,” said Glen Butts. “And, of course, we have Sarah here. … (But) I’d have to say Santa is the bigger celebrity. He’s going non-partisan, so I’d have to go with him.”

Lt. Micah Weinstein of the Wasilla Police Department reserves agreed. “Sarah’s a great lady, but Santa’s Santa.”

Behind the scenes, Bob Bowers has helped organize and cook for the Christmas Friendship Dinner since its inception. That first year, the dinner served 64 people at the Wasilla Senior Center. Last year, an estimated 1,500-1,700 was fed at Wasilla High School, and this year Bowers was prepared for 2,000 people at the sports center, as the event had outgrown the high school.

After 18 years of peeling potatoes and cooking in cramped, hot kitchens, is Bowers ready to pass on his apron?

“Heck, are you kidding?” he said. “I look forward to this day. This is the happiest day of my life when I get down here.”

This year, Bowers and a small army of volunteers helped cook and serve 63 turkeys, 60 hams, 600 pounds of potatoes, 50 gallons of gravy, 80 pounds of butter, dozens of large cans of beans and corn, and 600 pounds of carrots.

With more space and the kitchen facilities at the sports center, “This is the best year we’ve ever had,” Bowers said. “At the high school, they had to cook the potatoes out in front of the high school, and then they had to wheel them all the way back to the kitchen, mash them up, then haul them right back to where they cooked them. It took us all day.”

The Cowles family traveled from Indian with 7-year-old daughter Tilly for the dinner and passed the time playing Uno while waiting to help clean up.

“It feels like family,” Roger Cowles said about why his family has attended the past four Christmas events. “My folks live here and they peel potatoes and carrots. Last year, we came a day early and helped. This year we’re on the clean-up crew.”

While Tilly played Uno with her parents — “I lost the last hand,” her father said. “I was, like, hundreds in the hole” — her brothers were outside playing with a new toy they received at the sports center.

“We wouldn’t let them bring a football,” Roger Cowles said. “We said, ‘No, it’s going to be indoors.’ So, the gift they got from the giveaway over there was a football.”

Ashley Mills was one volunteer helping hand out presents to children at the dinner. All the gifts were donated, she said, then wrapped and labeled so each child would get a gift appropriate to his or her age and gender.

“It just makes me so happy to see them so happy about getting a present,” she said.

From youngsters visiting Santa one last time to seniors finding some companionship on Christmas, the friendship dinner was the place to be.

Barbara Rice lives at the Wasilla Senior Center and raved about the pecan pie.

“That pie, I’m not kidding you, is just delicious,” she said.

She also had warm thoughts for the local Santa Cop program, which payed her a visit earlier on Christmas.

“I didn’t even know about them,” she said of the Santa Cops. “They came in and said, ‘Are you Barbara Rice?’ And I said, ‘I am.” And he said, ‘We’re the Santa Cops and we’re here to see you.’”

She received a $100 gift certificate and several other wrapped gifts, Rice said.

“I was shocked a just the (amount of the) gift certificate, and I still have the gifts to look at too,” she said.

Kurt Karmer took a break from volunteering in the kitchen to enjoy Christmas dinner with his family. After three days of cooking to prepare, he proclaimed “everything” was the best on the menu.

“I just like bringing a little Christmas cheer to people, that’s all,” he said. “It’s been really good. The volunteers are great and (the facility) is beautiful.”

Sierra Hannan is a Christmas Friendship Dinner veteran. Attending since she was a girl, Hannan now brings her own children.

“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” she said. “It helps out the community, and it’s not just for poor people, it’s for everybody.”

Bowers said he gets more out of volunteering to make the dinner happen than he puts into it, but what really made him choke up was seeing the community fill the sports center.

“This is the gospel-honest truth,” Bowers said. “I have walked out there three times today, and all three times I had to come back because I had tears in my eyes. I was so happy and so overwhelmed with what I saw, it just makes my Christmas.”

Please enjoy my own personal photos below.

My daughter Cassie getting organized before the event

The table full of presents from Santa!

My sons Nick and Josh helping set up the Nativity

This is Kurt, who was mentioned in the Frontiersman article above

Some of our delivery crew. We were meals on wheels for today, and we had meals that were delivered to those who could not come to us.

We had volunteer firefighters helping out with meal delivery

We even had sugar free desserts

Kevin was awesome on the carrot shredder!

Some of our door greeters

Bob, on the right in the green apron, is an extraordinary cook and has been with the dinner all 18 years

One of our elves – isn’t she cute?

Chuck Heath (center) with Angelina and LindaJo Klapperich

We had plenty of rolls – thanks to all who donated!

We had a nice selection of hot and cold vegetables

Servers with spoons up – at the ready!

People getting their plates filled

We had lots of great young people volunteering, and whole families

There were also servicemembers, young and old alike

Sally Heath talking to Chris, another great volunteer

My daughter Cassie and son Josh, taking a break to eat

Sonja and Gregory, who were running the first aid table

Our honor table, for those who have fallen or were not able to be there as they had in years past

We had a great turnout

This little girl was very happy with her Santa gifts

This young dad was very happy to receive a toy for his child. They dropped down right there on the floor in front of Santa to open it. They were all smiles!

We had some great families who provided sing-a-long entertainment

An overhead view of some people going through the food line

Many of you who follow my blog regularly found me through Twitter or Facebook or through some of the Sarah Palin websites. We were blessed today when Sarah Palin and her family came and devoted time to volunteering at the Christmas Dinner. Sarah and Todd, her kids, her brother and sisters, their children, and her mom and dad were all in attendance. Sarah came in and of course, there was immediate excitement. Sarah was gracious enough to sign a few items. I was working as the volunteer coordinator, and she told me she really wanted to serve so we set her up with Angie and she put her to work on the serving line. Everyone was very excited to see her, and for some it made this Christmas Day even that much more special. Sarah has a servant’s heart and I know this is what makes her day as well. Sarah is her mother’s daughter, and it was her mother who originally asked me to get involved. Chuck Jr. was so proud that his boys were able to participate and they all had a great time. Sarah’s sisters and their families were also involved. Here are some photos from that part of the event:

Sarah’s brother Chuck Heath Jr with his boys Kier and Teko. They were a big help!

Sarah arrived. You can see Piper and Willow in the left side of the picture

Sarah signed a few books and calendars

The head of the serving line, Angie, gave Sarah and Todd gloves and aprons and put them to work!

Todd and Sarah enjoyed serving

This special young man was excited to see Sarah, as were many

If you enjoyed this post, you can follow my blog at Finding Myself In Alaska.

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Posted in (Mat-Su) Valley, Alaska, Christmas, Christmas Friendship Dinner, Governor Palin, Sarah Palin, Todd Palin, Wasilla | 1 Comment »

Christmas With the Palins

Posted by Dr. Fay on December 22, 2009

During her interview for FOX and Friends at the Going Rogue book signing at the Villages in Florida, Gretchen Carlson asked  Governor Palin about her family’s Christmas traditions.  Governor Palin replied that Christmas at their house includes a visit at Grandma’s house and a candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning starts with opening presents left by “Santa” the night before, and then the family participates in the annual Wasilla Community Christmas dinner. 

Asked what her favorite things about Christmas were, Piper mentioned gingerbread cookies, getting to go snowmachining and skiing, and “lots of gifts.” It sounds like the Palin Christmas is a mixture of fun and giving!  Also note that Christmas Eve is spent remembering the true meaning of Christmas, the day in which we celebrate Christ’s birth. 

When asked what message she wanted to give to America at Christmas, Governor Palin expressed the “specialness” of having her son home for Christmas and asked that we reach out to the families whose loved ones gave the ultimate sacrifice in the war zone and won’t be home for Christmas. 

Video of Gretchen’s interview with Governor Palin and Piper can also be found here.   Information about the Wasilla Community Christmas dinner and how you can help out can be found here.

Posted in (Mat-Su) Valley, Alaska, Christmas, Governor Palin, military, Piper Palin, Sarah Palin, servant's heart, Villages | Leave a Comment »

Sarah Palin’s Hometown: A Christmas Dinner Request

Posted by Sarah Palin Web Brigade on November 15, 2009

By Tracey Porreca – Finding Myself in Alaska

I love living in Wasilla, Alaska. It reminds me of the small farming community where I grew up in Ohio. I recently was approached by Sarah Palin’s mother, Sally Heath, and her friend Carol Ryan, and asked to become involved with a group they have been involved with in recent years, the Christmas Friendship Dinner. Sarah Palin and her family have given their time in past years as volunteers and I know Sarah’s mom will be there with myself and many others on Christmas Day to provide a meal and fellowship to people of the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Valley who have nowhere else to go, or just want to be with others on Christmas Day. Last year because of her run for Vice President and Secret Service concerns, Sarah was not able to serve, but did come to show her support. Please check out this article from The Frontiersman, our local paper, and the 2007 Christmas Dinner after Sarah was elected Governor of Alaska for information about her serving:

By Greg Johnson
Published on Thursday, December 27, 2007 9:57 PM AKST

WASILLA – Gov. Sarah Palin really does serve the people, and has the apron and spoon to prove it.

The governor made a surprise visit at Tuesday’s annual Christmas Day Dinner at Wasilla High School, and it wasn’t long before she was behind the steam tables serving up helpings of mashed potatoes and dressing.

“Isn’t this cool?” the governor said about the community feed, which drew more than 1,000 people to WHS this year. “What’s neat about this is those folks who’ve been here doing this for 16 years.”

Daniel Brown, Palin’s serving buddy on the line, was nearly giddy over the unexpected gift he received from the governor.

“She said I was her new best friend,” Brown said.

Palin and Brown were part of the estimated 200 volunteers who helped make the 2007 Christmas Day Dinner another success, said Bob Bowers, who has been and organizer of the event since its inception. About 1,200 attended last year’s event and more than 1,000 were fed Tuesday. An actual count wasn’t immediately available.

For Bowers, the community gathering in a central location to eat, sing, visit Santa Claus and be neighborly embodies the spirit of the holiday.

“This is just fantastic, just like it is every year,” he said. “We’ve got doctors, lawyers, businessmen, community folk all together. Even Sarah [Palin] showed up this year. Wow.”

Enjoying the food and playing with other kids was Clarissa Coon, 7, who was excited to talk about her Christmas experience.

“We opened up our presents,” she said. “My daddy’s friend [came over] and I showed them what I got, and that I made a leaf thing for my daddy.”

Hannah Clark, 11, spent much of the time with her family and taking turns singing Christmas carols. She also complimented whoever donated the brownies on the dessert line.

“I love their brownies,” she said. “They are the best. I think this is all really, really great. I like to sing and they let kids sing.

“Santa Claus himself was one of those enjoying listening to Coon and others sharing the microphone singing holiday tunes. Fresh off making his around-the-world trip, Santa was still lively and spry, visiting with children, who each left with a free photograph with the Jolly Old Elf.

Many of the kids asked Santa if he were tired after being up all night delivering toys, he said.

“I love it,” said Santa, aka Leroy Hawn, about the Christmas Day Dinner. “I look forward to it every year.”

All the food, decorations and help is donated, Bowers said, adding that there was no reason for anyone to leave the feast hungry and many took home leftovers. Overall, volunteers donated and cooked up:

. 43 turkeys,

. 23 hams,

. 400 pounds of potatoes,

. 120 large cans of yams,

. 300 pounds of bread, which was.
dried and made into dressing,

. 140 large cans of cranberries,

. about 150 gallons of gravy,

. more than 1,000 rolls,

. and hundreds of donated pies and

The dinner has grown since its first year, when it drew 64 people to the Wasilla Senior Center, Bowers said. For several years, he also made all the rolls himself, but the dinner has grown so much he can’t make them all from scratch anymore.

In addition to the hundreds who file into the Wasilla High School gymnasium, volunteer drivers also take meals to the home bound, Bowers said.

Area seniors really appreciate having a place to go on Christmas or seeing a smiling face bringing dinner to them, said Jeanne Gardner, a resident at the Wasilla Senior Center.

“This is the first time I’ve been here and it was great,” she said. “I got to see people I haven’t seen in months. I see a lot of seniors out today, and it’s good for them.”

Roger Hughes said the food was “wonderful,” and enjoyed the social atmosphere.”

I see people I haven’t seen for years,” he said, adding the effort reflects positively on Wasilla and the Mat-Su Valley. “It says we’re together and this is a loving, caring, giving community. It’s uplifting.”

Contact Greg Johnson at or 352-2268

The story behind this dinner tradition is really touching. Some 18 years ago, a group of friends in a Wasilla Lions Club had received some donated turkeys and decided to put together a dinner for the community. Their modest start of serving about 25 people has developed into an annual event that is estimated to serve over 1800 this year, including delivery of meals to home bound folks over a broad area of the core of the Mat-Su Valley.

The meal is open to all regardless of age, beliefs or type of need (some people have physical or financial needs and other have spiritual or emotional needs) to gather in a welcoming atmosphere to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is NOT a holiday dinner – it is a CHRISTmas dinner.

There is absolutely no charge for the dinner. We serve on Christmas Day from 11:00-3:00. In early years the event was held at the Wasilla Senior Center, and then at Wasilla High School. Because of the resounding success of the event, the 2009 dinner has been moved to the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center.

As you might imagine, staging an event of this magnitude takes a lot of people, and a lot of resources (or money). I write to you because we need your help. Everything has a cost associated with it from the building we are in, to the food, to the plates and cups, down to security and housekeeping services. Over the years many different people have helped in many different ways and we have been blessed to have had financial, time and/or in-kind contributions from individuals, corporations, governmental entities, churches, non-profits and small businesses. Currently we are working hard to meet the increased costs of this year’s dinner. The need is great, especially this year, and gifts of money for the purchase of food and other supplies is greatly appreciated. Donations can be sent to the following address:

Christmas Friendship Dinner
PO Box 870845
Wasilla, AK 99687

If you need a tax donation receipt, please contact me directly via my email at and I will give you instructions on how and where to send those donations. Only email me if you need a receipt. Otherwise, use the address above.

Any amount would be appreciated. We thank you so, so much and I will make sure to include a copy of any article that may be published again this year about the event. God Bless!

Posted in (Mat-Su) Valley, Alaska, Christmas Friendship Dinner, Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Sally Heath, Wasilla | Leave a Comment »