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Fireweed follies: No Governor’s Picnic?


no picnics

June 30 was a busy day for Gov. Bill Walker.

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Not only did Walker cancel the entire operations plan for Prudhoe Bay, throwing a cloud of uncertainty across the Alaska economy, he cancelled the Governor’s Family Picnics.

The State just cannot afford them, he said in a letter, posted above. We’re aghast that the State is so broke that he cannot even downsize the picnic, which is attended by people from all walks of life.


The only problem with the “we’re broke” scenario is that the picnics were paid for by sponsors, put on by volunteers, and never cost the State anything except a bit of team-building staff time, much of the actual work performed by college interns. The picnic tradition goes back to at least 1994, the Hickel Administration, according to someone who was assigned to blowing up balloons.

Word is, sponsors have balked this year and volunteers are hard to find for this Administration. But for those who have volunteered in the past — and there are hundreds of Alaskans who now can put on this picnic with their eyes closed —  it’s well known that all the food, tables, and “whatnot,” as the governor would say, are donated. Right down to the fish burgers and relish.

What could Walker have done to so thoroughly tick them off?

There’s that Prudhoe Bay Plan of Development slap in the face.  And there’s the very real concern that people showing up at the picnics might give the governor a piece of their minds about his performance so far, including his garnishing of their Permanent Fund dividends this year.


Governor’s Picnic aside,the annual Alaska Republican Party Picnic continues this year, and for the first time ever it’s organized by the Young Republicans, or YRs, as they are known. It will be epic, as the kids all say.

They’ve moved the location from Kincaid Park to the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Mark your calendar for Aug. 11 and if you want to get involved as a volunteer, contact Ryan McKee. Youthfulness is not a requirement, he assures us — all hands are needed.

Ryan is also your point of contact if you’re a campaign that wants a table at the picnic. They’re going fast.

The next planning meeting is July 6, 5:30 pm at Serrano’s Restaurant on Northern Lights Blvd. in Anchorage. “Anyone who wants to join the meeting is welcome to do so,” McKee said.


Bill Walker’s carrot and beer economy has been joined by peony farms. Modern Farmer says that in the state had no peony farms in 2004 but the number grew to more than 200 in 2014. It’s July, and that means is officially “Alaska Peony Month,” per governor’s proclamation.


Animal Planet filmed Dr. Dee in Healy on Saturday. In the next season, which starts July 16 she remarks to a cow in a barn, “It’s kind of like a crap shoot back here.” Not that you’re watching TV in July. You aren’t, are you?

Franklin Graham in Juneau.
Franklin Graham in Juneau.


Franklin Graham had wanted to pray at the Capitol, as he has done in the other states on his #DecisionAmerica tour, but since it was under construction, the event took place at Savikko Park at Sandy Beach on Douglas Island, where the evangelist reminded the good-for-Juneau sized crowd:”It was men and women of God who built this country.” Graham first preached in Juneau in 1989. He’ll be in the state for the month, we’re told.


Subscribers to the Monday newsletter, Must Read Alaska, will see it in their inboxes on Tuesday this week, as we take a day to celebrate and reflect on our independence and the God-given right of liberty. Fireworks and beer may be involved. Subscribe to the newsletter, but trigger warning: It is conservative and sometimes sassy.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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