Rural Alaska - With Music
Not every corner of Alaska features snow-covered mountains and glaciers like the one pictured above. However, you can feel the chill blowing down from the peaks and, even in summer, Alaskans must be prepared for a blast of cold air.
At the end of May, we attended a three-day music festival at a roadside lodge in Mendeltna where performers could barely play their instruments because their hands were so cold.
The small audience, many bundled inside their sleeping bags, dwindled as the day wore on.
Living in a cold rural environment shapes the personalities of the locals, an independent lot who take pride in their survival tactics. At the Mendeltna Creek Lodge, the fireplace was burning day and night and, in the kitchen, co-owner Mabel baked a thousand cookies for musicians who jammed inside for hours every day of the festival.
We ate cookies and drank hot coffee while listening to good ole bluegrass!
Outside, festival Master of Ceremonies Lulu Small kept warm by dancing in front of the stage.
We met a woman named Sue, a woodcarver from the mountains, who drives a pick-up truck with a four-foot-tall blonde doll in the back. The doll travels with a chainsaw in one hand and Sue whipped out her own chainsaw and showed us how she rolls!
Mabel told us that they hold the music festival every year to provide a comfortable place for musicians to play and relax with their families. She doesn’t advertise and in fact had posted a CLOSED sign on the front door of the lodge.
Lulu thanked everyone who “braved the elements” to attend this year’s festival and she set about planning the next event, this one in Anderson, Alaska, starting July 28. Turns out that one of the secrets of summer in Alaska is that you can find a bluegrass jam into the night almost every weekend.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.