Grooming for Success: Tom Helmers

March is a busy time at the Birch Hill Recreation Area. This week sees the USSA Cross Country Ski Junior National Championships play out. Then later this month, the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks hosts the annual Sonot Kkaazoot, a home-grown equinox event that celebrates springtime’s growing light and warmer temperatures.

This episode I speak with NSCF’s head groomer Tom Helmers. Without the passion and hard work of Helmers and his crew none of the events would be possible.

Also, I dust off part of a conversation I had in 2016 with Bob Baker, who founded the Sonot Kkaazoot.

Human Connections in Music and Public Service: June Rogers

June Rogers and Sandc Castle

June Rogers was born in Alaska and raised in Fairbanks. Following school, she was an owner of a mechanical contracting company. But her passion, as you’ll hear, has always been music and the arts. Both behind the scenes and in front of audiences she has made an indelible mark, as her Governor’s Award bestowed from the Alaska State Council on the Arts makes clear.

Banking on the Future

Jo Heckman, photo by Jake Poole

Jo Heckman received two degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks: a BA and MBA in Business Administration. She forged a successful banking career in Alaska and, in fact, made history as our state’s first woman bank President and CEO. She was tapped by Governor Sean Parnell to serve on the University of Alaska Board of Regents. She’s now exploring the role food and produce play in Fairbanks.

Acknowledging Contributions

This show is the second part of a look at the immigrant experience in Alaska and the U.S. It draws on two different conversations. I spoke with Linda Thai, who is an immigrant, but also a Fairbanks therapist and educator who helps trauma sufferers, in 2018. I spoke with historian and bibliographer Ron Inouye back in 2019. He’s the author of Alaska’s Japanese pioneers: faces, voices, stories: a synopsis of selected oral history transcripts.

Who is Welcome: Linda Thai & Ron Inouye

Linda Thai and her mother

I’ve been thinking about immigration lately and our country’s conflicted legacy of welcoming those from other parts of the globe seeking a better life here. This Northern Soundings episode draws from two previously aired conversations with Vietnamese refugee Linda Thai and Japanese American Ron Inouye, who had family members placed in internment camps during World War Two.

His Brother’s Keeper

Bishop Otis McCormick

At this time of year, I recall Jacob Marley’s words to Scrooge: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business.” This week on Northern Soundings I talk with Bishop Otis McCormick whose work in Fairbanks embodies Dickens’ words.

Therapeutic Theatre

Dawn Stern & Stephan Wolfert photo by Brenna Merritt

Actors Stephan Wolftert and Dawn Stern of Decruit are back in Fairbanks. I talked with them several months ago, when they were in town, about applying Shakespeare’s texts, modern science and dramatic techniques to help heal veterans and others recovering from trauma. In this longer conversation, we discuss the process by which they create new one and two-person productions that capture an audience’s attention and exploit what Aristotle claimed were tragedy’s power to purge the emotions.

A Successful Life: Shirley Gordon

On this show I talk with Shirley Gordon; at nearly 100, she has seen much of Alaska’s recent history, and even participated in it as the wife of William Gordon, the state’s flying Episcopal bishop. A replica of his plane hangs on permanent display in the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center. This episode is drawn from a recording of a public conversation with Shirley this summer as part of UAF Summer Sessions‘ Tall Timbers series. As you’ll hear, she concludes our discussion by declaring, with a twinkle in her eye, that she is a very great success.

Gerri Brightwell: Emigree and Writer

University of Alaska Fairbanks Director of Creative Writing Gerri Brightwell has been on my Northern Soundings wishlist for years. The publication this month of her latest novel Turnback Ridge seemed like the perfect occasion for discussing her life, her work, and her marriage to fellow author Ian C. Esstlemont. Brightwell has penned four novels, three of them set in Alaska. As you’ll hear, Turnback Ridge forecasts troubled times, especially for those unlucky enough to be immigrants.

She has two events in November. A book signing at Forget-Me-Not Books on Gaffney Road. 11am -3pm on Saturday November 12th. And later that evening at 6 PM she’ll read with other UAF creative writing faculty: Daryl Farmer, Sara Johnson, & Joe Holt at the Bear Gallery, Civic Centre, Pioneer Park, in an event sponsored by the Fairbanks Arts Association