24 Jul How Fast Can You Eat a Klondike Bar?
It wasn’t so long ago that I was just preparing to graduate high school. I remember the frenzied rush the day before my graduation ceremony, with my white graduation cap and gown laid out on the foot of my bed. My preparations involved tying ropes, ironing a stole, and rummaging frantically through the small boxes in my dresser for any pins I’d earned throughout my time in school. I walked to receive my diploma with one of my favorite accomplishments pinned to my chest: a Junior Ranger badge from the Santa Monica Mountains NRA.
Junior Ranger programs and other similar youth outreach were an important part of my education and value formation growing up. For many kids, including Skagway’s youth, Junior Ranger programs are similarly impactful. Thursday, July 21st was Klondike Gold Rush NHP’s annual Junior Ranger celebration. It involved a variety of events throughout the day – some led by departments within the park and closely related to park operations, and some… less so.
One of those activities that the kids loved was the Klondike Bar eating contest, which derives its namesake from the same place that our park does: the Klondike region in the Yukon interior. I saw an assortment of kids with ice cream smeared all over their hands, arms, and faces in an attempt to set the park record for the fastest-eaten bar. Jared, one of the summer program leaders, took the cake (or should I say ice cream bar?) with a record time of twenty seconds. Eric, a ranger, commented that the only way someone could beat that time was if they ate the bar with the wrapper still on it.
The activity that I was leading was in partnership with Alaska Fish and Game. The warden taught me how to make a fishing lure using a wire, colorful beads that mimicked salmon eggs, and a neon spinner that would look like a tiny fish as it moved through the water. It wasn’t long before I got the hang of manipulating wire and had a long line of children in front of me, waiting to make lures for themselves. As I was making lures, I listened to fishing stories from the local children. They told me about their fishing adventures with their parents and grandparents: catching Dolly Varden or trout, going out on a boat or camping up at the lake, and getting to spend time outdoors and with their families.
My personal favorite event was the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Dancers. This dance group represents the song and dance traditions of the Tlingit people, who are indigenous to southeast Alaska. They involved people of all ages in their dances and taught about the contexts in which they would normally sing and dance, such as when arriving at someone’s house, when canoeing in the ocean, and when reaching land after a long journey.
It was so special to be able to contribute to a youth outreach event similar to the ones that impacted me so profoundly as a child. I can only hope that their experiences of having fun and learning about their community from national park rangers will inspire them to value natural and cultural resources.