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Thank you to the hundreds of people and businesses that participated in last weekend's site selection visit by the Arctic Winter Game's International Committee.
On Saturday morning, with welcoming crowds at the airport, we waited in the fog as the committee's jet circled overhead. As the fog thickened and it became apparent no planes were going to land, it looked as if the carefully prepared visit was in jeopardy.
Instead, Juneau's welcoming committee met Saturday night and revised the entire program. Sunday morning the committee made it into Juneau and once again Arctic Winter Game's supporters turned out at the airport, Eaglecrest, the hockey rink, the Baranof and at the high school. The result was the International Committee experienced a near perfect program and tour. Committee members mentioned several times how impressed they were with Juneau's ability to regroup in the face of adversity.
The tour Sunday was awesome. I was completely humbled to see the number of people who turned out. The day started with a great editorial from this paper explaining Juneau's advantages. The formal program began at the airport, where the committee was met by a crowd of Assembly members and others, wearing blue Arctic Winter Games vests with logos and pins and waving signs. After a welcoming dance by the All Nations Children Dance Group (Lda Kut Naa Sata Yat' xi) and a warm welcome by Mayor Sally Smith, Anita Maynard Losh of Perseverance Theater described how our world- class theater will assist in staging the opening and closing ceremonies.
At Eaglecrest we were greeted by a 50-person archway of ski poles leading to the lodge entry and other skiers and snowboarders waving signs and chanting "Juneau 2006." Inside the lodge, an impressive presentation by local experts was given about our ski facilities and capabilities for the ski, snowboard and snowshoe events. The games would take place in early March and records show Eaglecrest has never failed to have a large snow pack then. Our large volunteer and family oriented ski area was highlighted. During the warm informal reception that followed there were lots of one-on-one conversations between committee members and the skiing public.
Then on to Douglas, where two Douglas Fire Department trucks escorted us to the hockey rink. The welcome from Douglas was equally impressive. The congregation from Douglas Methodist Church was on the church steps waving signs, Douglas Café owners and customers were waving signs, and the students from Gastineau Elementary School had welcome signs in the windows. Entering the Treadwell Ice Rink, we were greeted by ice sport enthusiasts. Sandy Williams did an outstanding job of highlighting how our community will provide more than enough volunteers to host the games. Alaska Native Elder Rosa Miller also welcomed our visitors.
The tour went to the Baranof for a lunch with business leaders, Assembly members and past participants of the games. Former Mayor Jamie Parsons emceed a warm and skillful program, including a violin performance from student Franz Felkl and instructor Guo Hua Xia, speeches from Mayor Smith and former Mayor and Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, and a speech from Alaskan Native Elder Agnes Ballinger. The lunch was capped off with a short DVD produced by the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mad Dog Graphx, Damon Struebner, and others.
The high school complex, where the 2,000-plus student athletes would be housed, was the final venue. The committee entered the gym to welcome signs and cheers by the JDHS cheerleaders. The dance team performed its light show. A very impressive selling point was our renovated high school. Our ability to house, feed, and have a safe place for athletes to meet is one of our bid's strongest components.
Concerning the weather, the committee was very responsive to Juneau's proposals for contingency plans for back-up ferry transportation standing by in Sitka in case of fog.
While we all wished there would have been more snow, one committee member told us we were overly concerned about it, assuring us the committee had reviewed Eaglecrest's historic March snow records in detail, and didn't see a problem.
Bringing more than 3,000 athletes, parents and officials to Juneau would be a tremendous boost. With our new rink, our renovated high school, and anticipating a renovated Eaglecrest lodge, and new high school, (all of which voters have approved) this community has a lot about which to be proud. I am most proud of the hundreds of people who cared enough Saturday and Sunday to help welcome the Arctic Winter Games to Juneau. We have the right spirit and are the ideal place to host the games. Thank you for your help.
Assembly member Jim Powell serves as chairman of Juneau's 2006 Arctic Winter Games Committee.