Disorient Express on the Chamber ‘Kentucky Derby’ ride



(Caution to readers: Language is strong in this article, but you’ve read worse).

It happened in Juneau and led to the resignation of two legislators this winter. Now, sexual harassment and assault allegations have hit the top Anchorage business trade group.

Joseph Lurtsema, who runs a social media and marketing company out of midtown Anchorage, hoped to make new business acquaintances and friends during the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce’s “Kentucky Derby” train ride, a day of networking and fellowship that turned into a bit of a groping nightmare for him and possibly others.

The train is a six-hour ride to Indian and back, and includes good food and an open bar. Activities include “casino and networking games, split the pot, a silent auction, karaoke and more!” Participants were encouraged to wear hats and Kentucky Derby attire. The Chamber even posted a Pinterest page for inspiration.

But some men attending the event were decidedly ungentlemanly.

Lurtsema posted his experience on Facebook the following day, but in a conversation with Must Read Alaska on Friday night, he indicated that his experience with the Chamber’s event was unpleasant: “There are predators among us,” he said, before deciding to go public .

During the ride, he said he was approached by an inebriated man in his mid-20s who grabbed Lurtsema by the crotch and said,  “You are so sexy, I want to touch you all over!”

Lurtsema told him to back off and the man went to the other side of the train car.

The second incident occurred while he was on the phone talking to one of his clients. Another man, also in his 20s, slapped his butt and grabbed ahis private parts. The man winked and “strutted confidently away, leaving me in shock and disgust. What was going on here?”

Was Lurtsema trapped on a train with a bunch of Harvey Weinsteins? A woman responded on Facebook that she, too, was grabbed in the butt while on the train ride.

“I also got a serious ass-grabbing on the train yesterday-and maybe here is the sad difference between men and women, I’m so immune to it by now, that after I looked up and couldn’t identify which of the people passing by me had done it, I remarked on it to the women I was talking to and moved on. I didn’t think about it again, or even consider reporting it. For those that you can identify:please pursue. I’ve had nothing but amazing interactions with everyone at the Chamber, and not a one of them would condone any of this behavior, and there was security there for our benefit. Don’t let a few drunken idiots on one afternoon ruin your chances of business success: I never do,” one woman wrote.

In the third incident Lurtsema recounted, a man aggressively flirted with him and commented on his butt, saying “I just want to slap it,” among other inappropriate comments. The man turned to a woman and convinced her to pinch him on the bottom.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. He was flirting and saying other inappropriate things to & about other men at the event,” Lurtsema wrote.

As the ride came to an end, he says people were getting more and more inebriated and he recalls five men and two women commenting on the size of his butt, his looks, and one man asked him how large his penis is, (although he used a different term.)

“I am absolutely disappointed, violated, disgusted, and shocked that I was molested multiple times at a professional Anchorage Chamber of Commerce event. I spent over $1,000 to become a member of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, which gave me these tickets to the Chamber Train event,” he wrote.

When reached, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce President Bruce Bustamante said he was not ready to comment, but he had referred Lurtsema to the police and to the Alaska Railroad, which handled security for the event.

“I was raised to be a Warrior, not a victim,” Lurtsema wrote. “I want to bring Sexual Assault Awareness to the Alaska Business Community. Alaska is the #1 crime & sexual assault State per capita in the United States. We hear it all the time but when it happens to you, it gives you a certain perspective. I’m sure there are many others in our community who have experienced this kind of behavior. If this is happening to me, it’s happening to other Men, Women, and Children throughout our community. Sexual Assault is happening all over Anchorage, and it’s one of the most personal forms of pain, betrayal, and eternal discomfort one can experience. I’ve been to dive bars, clubs, and other events where the likelihood of a situation like this would be substantially higher. I thought participating at the most Popular Anchorage Chamber of Commerce event would place me in the safest area in Alaska. I was wrong, it was dangerous.”

Lurtsema said he emailed Bustamante and received a full-some response that said he would investigate the matter.

“I want to tag other Ambassadors & staff of the Chamber so they are completely aware of what’s happening in their backyard so we, as a community, can prevent these types of incidents from ever happening again. Thank you for reading, and please support those who have experienced Sexual Assault. I’m sure there are others out there without a voice. Let’s be their voice. God bless,” Lurtsema wrote.


Everyone on a party train has a different idea of what constitutes fun. While what Lurtsema experienced will not be unfamiliar to women in Anchorage, where sexual assault is a well-documented occurrence, his account is a reminder that men, too, can be victims of harassment and sexual assault. Rarely do they talk about it because there is a stigma when it comes to being sexualized and bullied by other men.

But Lurtsema said if he doesn’t speak out, he would be condoning the behavior, and he thinks Anchorage deserves better.

Reporting sexual harassment can come at a cost. In one study, 75 percent of women who reported sexual harassment said they experienced retaliation. 

Lurtsema said he considered the price he might have to pay by speaking out. He’s willing to pay it.

A few weeks ago, Lurtsema said he was going to run for Anchorage Assembly and today he said those plans have not changed.


  1. This does not surprise me at all, drunken,depraved idiots, hope several big fat lawsuits come out of this, maybe somebody losing alot of money and their job might serve a lesson, I think a year of Counseling should me mandatory for the Freaks that just can’t seem to keep their hands to themselves ?

  2. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

    This story simply does not ring true. Sounds like an attention starved social justice warrior attempting to create an issue where there is none.

  3. I think the last sentence of the article may say more about all of this than the rest of account. Methinks that this fellow wants attention.

  4. I was on that train and the experience the young man describes does not even remotely begin to describe what I observed and experienced. It was a fun, lively event and security was everywhere on that train. They were very visible and present in every car on the train. Our group of 6 included men and women, and all had a good time and a good experience.

  5. The guy got sexually assaulted 3 separate times by 3 separate men on a 4 hour train ride? That’s not even in the same orbit as reality. Unless you consider getting bumped on a crowded train sexual assault, I don’t see how that’s even possible. Unless he had a “pinch me” sign on his back, one would assume that these predators were also making these comments and actions against other men, and most men would not simply keep quiet and later go to the press about such an incident, there would have been violence. Insane that anyone would even publish this trash.

    • Agreed Nick. Too many holes in this story. But it makes a great springboard and pitty party for someone that wants to get into Politics, doesn’t it?

      • More importantly, why would you even mention you were running for assembly in this article? If it wasn’t for free press- why even bring it up?

  6. 1. There were two security guards on the train, constantly moving among the riders. They were available to handle any problems that arose, and constantly monitoring the crowd.
    2. There was cell service during most of the ride. 911 was available. In case of emergency, the railroad staff had constant ability to call APD. There were railroad staff members present in all the cars.
    3. The cars were crowded, but I saw absolutely no conflict.
    4. Not all the riders were with the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Half the cars were from the Associated General Contractors of Alaska. Tickets were also advertised on the radio and sold to the general public.
    5. In my opinion, it would have been wise to have both Anchorage Chamber and AGC staff employees refrain from alcohol during the ride.
    6. Again, in my opinion, the complainant could easily have reported the alleged incidents to the security guards, the Railroad staff present in every car, to 911 or to the Anchorage Chamber or AGC staff members instead of waiting to broadcast the alleged incidents in a wider public forum. If the complainant is actually considering a run for the Anchorage Assembly, I am afraid he has demonstrated extremely poor judgement.

  7. I was on the train. Anyone who was accosted I am shamed by the aggressors behavior.
    The event was fun filled. There was no hard alcohol on the train. I did not personally see anyone sounding or appearing over served.
    I walked up and down the train socializing and never noticed inappropriate behavior.
    The railroads security was visible and walking up and down the train. There were at least two security men over seeing the activities. He could have reported it to them.
    The Chamber hosted the event. I was planned and staffed very well. Their ambassadors seemed to be spread throughout the train with one in every car at any given time. He could have reported it to a badged Chamber memeber.
    I also believe this gentleman is working for free press time especially if seeking a run at office.
    I personally would not vote for him. How can you count on him to speak up for you if he won’t speak up for himself or possibly other potential victims at the time of the incident. The assailant was at large. He says he was raised a warrior. I have met a warrior or two in this state. None would have risked other people, all would have brought the situation to light immediately.

  8. Wait this is all a bit unbelievable so the train ride was from 11:30am-4:30pm, the alleged victim stated that the first half of the train ride was good and he was “networking.” He also stated that the second half turned into the “frat party” and that is where he was repeatedly sexually assaulted in three separate incidents with different “predators” each time.

    However he posted to his Facebook profile at 3:41pm from the train ride “Kentucky Derby Themed Chamber Train! What a fun day with professionals!” along with a picture of himself and the train. When he was asked where they went to, his reply was “Not sure really, was busy networking with a bunch of tipsy professionals! XD”

    So that means the THREE separate assaults would have likely taken place between 3:41pm and 4:30pm, because after all the alleged victim stated “What a fun day with professionals!” at 3:41pm, and looked and sounded very pleased with that part of his journey. So how was it that this average looking guy was sexually assaulted three times in 49 minutes? I know Anchorages crime rate has gone up but if this is true it is time to move.

    The story is just not very plausible, and the has too many holes. I hope this individual was not victimized but based on the information supplied by him the story is very doubtful at best, the true victim(s) of sexual assault are being victimized once again for this guy’s 15 minutes of fame.

  9. I completely agree with you. I don’t understand how that all could have taken place in that time frame.

  10. I attended the train ride, walked up and down the entirety of the cars many times and observed absolutely no disturbing actions. I checked out this guys social media, and he seems very self absorbed. If these events actually did happen I’ll rescind my statement, but I think this guy just wants attention. Please don’t ruin a fun event with false claims.

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