Bethel celebrates 50 years

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2007

BETHEL - A public citywide celebration continues to mark the 50th anniversary of municipal incorporation in Bethel.

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The city, on a site first established by Yup'iks, was incorporated in 1957.

Initially called Mumtrekhlogamute, meaning "smokehouse people," Bethel boasted 41 people in the 1880 U.S. Census. Today the population exceeds 6,000 residents.

Part of the incorporation celebration was on Aug. 27 in Bethel City Council chambers at City Hall, where cake, coffee and tea were served.

City residents were invited to attend the celebration kickoff and encouraged to bring pictures, articles and items about Bethel that could be placed on display, according to Janet Athanas, director of the Bethel Department of Parks and Recreation.

Athanas said the city's 50th anniversary committee has been working on plans for a year of projects in Bethel, which is the regional hub for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and its surrounding 56 villages.

Among the special projects is the minting of a 50th anniversary coin that is available for sale in Bethel, which serves at the main port of the delta's Kuskokwim River.

Additional plans include fund raising to republish "Bethel, The First Hundred Years" and producing a video outlining 50 years of city accomplishments, Athanas said.

Some of the pre-incorporation history includes the establishment of a Moravian Church mission in 1884 and the opening of a post office in 1905. The 50 years of city accomplishments would document municipal history since 1957.

Plans are also afoot for forming a historical society to work on an archival quality museum with permanent exhibits, she said.

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