Moose Dropping Festival turns to mayhem

Beatings, street fights, a drowning all at this years' gathering

Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TALKEETNA - A 22-year-old man is presumed dead after leaping into a river and getting swept away at the annual Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Jacob Larson of Nikiski jumped from an Alaska Railroad trestle bridge into the Talkeetna River, just upstream from its confluence with the Susitna. She said the young man went around a bend and no one has seen him since.

"Our trooper went out with a railroad guy and told some people, 'Hey, stop jumping. Do not jump. It's a bad current,"' Peters said.

Peters said the presumed drowning was the most serious incident during a festival marred by mayhem.

She said there were many drunken fights downtown, so many that troopers assisting in the search for Larson had to head downtown to help the lone trooper dealing with the mayhem.

Along the river, a roving band of about 10 men, suspected to be gang members from Anchorage, were going from campsite to campsite looking to fight. Troopers, she said, noticed that almost every man they spoke with on the riverbank appeared to have cuts, bruises or a fat lip.

"They would jump out of the woods and the brush and pretty much start punching and pummeling everyone," Peters told the Mat-Su Daily Frontiersman.

The Moose Dropping Festival is an annual event organized as a fundraiser for the Talkeetna Historical Society. Residents said this year's festival drew record numbers to the town of fewer than 1,000 people.

Amanda Randles, a bartender at the Fairview Inn, told the Anchorage Daily News that the town was hit with an enormous amount of visitors. At one point, she went to a second-story window and looked below.

"It reminded me of Times Square in New York," she said. "It was chaos."

Peters said troopers have yet to tally the number of arrests.

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