In Alaska, the biggest parties seem to happen in the middle of winter. During the short season we call Construction Season, people are generally frantically working in as much as they can of those things they cannot do the remaining eight months of the year – gardening, hiking, fishing, outdoor maintenance on the home … you get the picture.
And what better way to bring in the new year then to have one of the largest parties in Anchorage, right in the heart of downtown at Town Square Park. Hosted by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and sponsored by NECA and IBEW, the annual “Fire and Ice” New Year’s Eve celebration is quite an extravaganza. Skaters, fire throwers, dancers, live music – everything you would want from a nighttime winter outside party. Keeping the whole party going through the evening, twin brothers Wayne and Shane Mitchell of TBA Theatre entertained the crowds without fail. Fortunately, it was quite a bit warmer than the subzero of last year’s party. It must have been at least ten degrees outside.
This year’s theme celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Statehood for our sister state, Hawai’i. Replete with hula dancers and a volcano that erupted with fireworks every fifteen minutes, the party had much to offer in celebrating Hawaiian culture. There was certainly more on display to celebrate Hawaiian culture for this party than there was downtown on January 3, 2009 to celebrate Alaskan culture when we marked our own fifty years as a state. I am not quite sure how that worked out. Perhaps hula dancers are more pleasing to look at than dog teams and guys in Carharts. We certainly see more of the latter than the former. But some Alaska Native dancers at least would have been in order for our own celebration.
Part of the fun in attending these events is also in seeing the interaction among the VIPs. Normally, it is the Anchorage mayor who really sends off the party with a big welcome and greeting to the crowd. While our new Mayor Dan Sullivan filled the letter of that role, his crowd skills were not quite up to the task of the occasion. Standing behind him, the former mayor now United States Senator Mark Begich waited for his chance to speak to the crowd. There was a visible distance between the two men, no doubt because of the voracious and constant criticism that Mayor Sullivan has rained down upon Senator Begich about his former job performance as mayor. But Senator Begich stepped in and spoke to the crowd, showing that he still had the power to truly give this party a proper sendoff. Joining in, after giving Mayor Sullivan some “rabbit ears” while he was talking, was Congressman Don Young, how acted as if he had not spent nearly two million dollars over the last couple of years in fending off a federal investigation into his various shenanigans. Later, inside the Performing Arts Center, I enjoyed playing voyeur to a lively chat between local blogger, Huffington Post contributor and frequent MSNBC guest Shannyn Moore and Senator Begich.
All in all, another fine entry to a new year in Anchorage.