Mighty McKinley, Daring Denali

A few weeks ago, I took a commercial flight to Fairbanks, and it turned into quite the flight-seeing adventure. Denali (Mt. McKinley) stood majestic and wasn't even shrouded by clouds, which is a more common sight. At 20,237 feet tall, it's the tallest mountain peak in North America. Catching a glimpse of her peak was a real treat. 

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Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention

The Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention, or AFN for short, is the largest representative annual gathering in the United States of any Native peoples.  Each year, AFN draws between 4,000 – 5,000 attendees, and this year’s host was chilly Fairbanks. 

A highlight of AFN each year is the Quyana Alaska evening dance performances.  Quyana (ku-'ya-na) is a central Yu’pik word for “thank you.”  And these dance groups deserve a big thank you, indeed.  

What's special about these outstanding performances is they are culturally significant.  One of my favorites this year was the Suurimmaanitchuat dancers from Chevak.  Their powerful drums and expert choreography get my pulse going every time.  This talented group also performed during President Obama’s inauguration.  Needless to say, I was thrilled and honored to join the group when they invited audience members to the stage.  My rhythm certainly didn’t match theirs, but that was part of the fun – learning, observing, interacting – and being warmly welcomed with open arms.

Check out my video of Quyana highlights below.  You can also click on the photo thumbnails to see the full size photos.  Enjoy!

North Pole, Alaska

Three things you need to know about North Pole, Alaska:

1. It's easily accessible - only a short drive from Fairbanks.

2. The spirit of Christmas and Santa Claus is still alive.

3. Purchasing property can be ridiculously cheap!

I was in Fairbanks this week and decided to visit the North Pole.  Well, not THE North Pole, but North Pole, Alaska, a suburb outside of the second largest city in the state. 

It's difficult to imagine something more synonymous with the North Pole than Santa and his reindeer, sleigh, and jolly laughter.  You can find all this and more at the Santa Claus House, built way back in 1949.  Kiddos from across the world mail their letters to Santa to this locale.  Eager parents can even place an order for an original letter from Santa - complete with a genuine North Pole postmark. 

What I found most interesting about this magical place was the fact that I could own a piece of the action.  So I purchased one square inch of North Pole, Alaska - Lot 56, Block 3507 to be more specific!  I know what you're thinking.  And yes, there's a way.  You, too, can get your very own deed to your very own North Pole property here.  I own a spot in Southeast Alaska, but there's nothing quite like having a toehold in the far North.  :-)

The deed to my expansive property.

Santa's House

Playing tourist on Santa's sleigh.  Too bad there wasn't a dog sled attached.

Santa's reindeer have strict diets.  I was told the fella in the background is the oldest reindeer in captivity.

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Stealing Santa's chair.  The elf got creeped out when I pointed to him.

"I want one so so so so so so so badly!  I wanted to write more so's but I have to write more and I won't beablel to fit it."

A letter from Lithuania.  Little Miss Gabriele grew up to become her country's penmanship laureate.

Has your kid been naughty this year?  A fear-inducing letter from Santa should do the trick.