Good music, big trees, caves, fine art and a musical play are all in store this weekend in Juneau.
The Forest Service has resumed the winter Fireside Program Series. This is a roughly 12-week series of presentations on nature-related topics. The series has featured many, many excellent programs in past years.
Tonight's program is Prehistory and Paleoecology of Southern Southeast Alaska Caves. These are the caves where scientists have found the bones of extinct bears and other animals, and learned a tremendous amount about prehistoric Southeast Alaska. Geologist Jim Baichtal will show slides and talk.
This is the 38th year for this series, held every Friday night from 7:30 to 9 at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center through the end of March. In olden times the hosts would light a fire in the fireplace, but the new and improved center now has a spiffy theater that's better suited for the presentations.
Saturday there's an extra presentation, a look at the Community Landmark Tree Project. Naturalist Richard Carstensen and Sam Skaggs will talk about the biggest trees in Southeast, highlighting those in the Juneau area. They have hands-on natural history and forestry activities. The program is for all ages, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the visitor center, and is free.
The benefit concert tonight for George Trani promises good music and a warm show of support for a local musician and former teacher. About two dozen musicians, including several bands, have volunteered to perform for the concert.
Musicians won't be showcased in sets; instead the plan is take turns, with a fast-paced string of songs. Bluegrass, old-time, swing, folk and contemporary styles will be represented. The event will include taping a "video postcard" to send to Trani, a chocolate dessert extravaganza and a collection of gifts for a care package.
Friends of Trani have organized the community event to raise money for his family. He suffered a brain aneurysm in October and was in a coma for many weeks. He is doing much better and is recovering in Seattle. Trani was a shop teacher for many years at Juneau-Douglas High School and retired just three years ago. He served on the board of the Alaska Folk Festival and played banjo in the River of Life bluegrass band.
I worked with George on the Alaska Folk Festival board, and I would personally come to this event just to be part of a community tribute and show of support for such a great person. So there's my bias. But even if you weren't a student of his, or don't care that he did a whole bunch of work on the folk festival for three years running, or never heard the River of Life tear into a bluegrass breakdown or deliver a sweet gospel tune, you may want to come for the music.
His bandmates in River of Life will perform tonight, as well as the Panhandle Crabgrass Revival Band, Bob Banghart and Jack Fontanella, John Palmes, Stewart Ely, Paula Rohrbacher, Jerry Fiscus, Don Drew, and Martha Scott and her Partners in Crime.
It's a good lineup and there's sure to be a few more. Other musicians interested in performing a song or two are welcome to come between 7 and 7:30 p.m. to sign up. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at Northern Light United Church. Everything has been donated for the event and all proceeds benefit Trani's family. Admission is $5.
Saturday is the last chance to see the fine art exhibit, the All Alaska Juried Art Exhibition at the Alaska State Museum.
The Douglas Youth Drama Association has a one-weekend run of the locally written and produced musical play, "The Night The Forest Cried." The show features 22 young performers and tells the true story of the consequences of the unpredictable power of nature in Juneau. The show opens at 7:30 tonight and runs at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Palace Theatre on North Franklin Street. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to offset costs.