Bearfest marks three years in Wrangell
Hope Mikkelsen takes her best shot at Bear Bowling on the City Hall lawn.
Over the course of five days – and nearly 50 different events – Bearfest 2012 was celebrated in Wrangell without a hitch July 25-29.
The 3rd annual event, which included classes ranging from digital photography and Photoshop editing skills, to gun safety and ways to live in peace with our furry neighbors, is the brainchild of local outfitter Sylvia Ettefagh.
Ettefagh said the event is growing in size and what it can offer to the community and those who visit from abroad.
“For one thing, the turnout was better this year over last,” Ettefagh said. “I think people are getting used to the idea of the different venues and workshops we have available. They are enjoying them more because we have fine-tuned a lot of the events. People regionally and nationally are learning about us as well.”
According to Ettefagh, one of the biggest parts of the ever-growing annual event is the presence of fisheries biologist and expert photographer Robert E. Johnson.
“Robert is an Alaskan,” Ettefagh said. “I have known him for 30 years and he is an Alaskan in the sense that he came here right out of college and has spent so much time in the field here.”
Johnson, who has spent most of his life in Yakutat, taught classes in living near and around bears, bear deterrents, and digital photography and editing.
“With his experience at Alaska Department of Fish and Game, he has done and seen so many things including picking up photography. He has been at it for awhile and he understands how bears think and how to bring that across to people,” Ettefagh stated.
The annual kids games, including bear bowling, an obstacle course, and the running of the bears, are also of major importance, Ettefagh said.
“This event is all about community,” Ettefagh added. “The goal is to expose Wrangell, and the families and kids that take part in them beyond what they’re accustomed to. It’s also for those outside of Wrangell who bring their families here. By bringing families out, it gives the next generation exposure to the variety of outdoors here.”
The marathon, half-marathon, 5K and walking event on Sunday was also better attended this year – with a special twist on the winner of the full marathon.
Tuck and Patti Andress played live for packed houses at the Nolan Center July 27-28. Their performances included a sing-along with the audience, which is a rare occurrence for the duo.
Coast Guard Seaman Terry German, who is stationed aboard the USCG cutter Elderberry in Petersburg, won the race with a time of 3:26:17 – after never running a marathon or training for one.
German, who was exhausted after the race and unable to comment, was lauded by one of his superiors in Petersburg.
BM1 Brian Porter, the Executive Petty Officer of the Elderberry, said the crew and staff are proud of German, and missing his skills as a deck seaman and in navigation.
“He ran the race and did well,” Porter said. “He is taking a couple days off to recuperate before he comes back to work. He works in our deck department, so we can’t wait to get him back.”
A total of 60 participants took part in the combined races, with 19 who ran the full marathon, 13 running the half, and the remaining 28 either running the 5K or walking.