No sooner had the seal oil lamps been lit at the 48th World
Eskimo-Indian Olympics than Caitlyn Pickett-Bowell went spinning
15 feet into the Carlson Center air before more than 40 volunteers
cushioned her landing in the blanket toss event.
has become the love of my life, doing the blanket toss," she gushed
Wednesday evening as she chewed on a salmon strip given to her by
is 17, and this year marks her 17th WEIO the last 10 as a
is the daughter of Native games legend Carol Hull who also
competed in the women's blanket toss preliminaries and stepdaughter
of Garry Hull, who graces the cover of this year's WEIO program
doing the two-foot high kick.
all 5-foot-1 and 100 pounds of her, was careful to instruct the
pullers to coordinate their launch of her by lifting simultaneously
upward on the walrus hide "blanket."
jump," said Pickett-Bowell, who once demonstrated the blanket toss
in the background of NBC's "Today" show. "Let them throw you."
competitor hadn't yet learned that lesson and injured her ankle.
She was wheeled from the Carlson Center on a stretcher.
blanket toss wouldn't be possible without the volunteer pullers,
who WEIO board member Gina Kalloch helped recruit by telling them
they'd have the best view of the popular event. Kalloch also informed
the crowd that the blanket toss is a traditional Eskimo game and
part of the celebration of a successful whale hunt.
of the tossers was Gerg Apalt, who attended the opening night of
the four-day cultural and athletic celebration with his wife and
two daughters. The family is relocating from Homer to Virginia and
is touring Fairbanks before departing Alaska.
was fun. I've never done anything like that before," said Apalt,
whose daughters, ages 5 and 8, got to try the blanket toss this
winter at the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival.
didn't hesitate to join about 40 others on the arena floor.
seemed like they were targeting people like me," Apalt said, referring
to his strength and fitness.
the Kuugmiut Dancers from the village of Wainwright on the Arctic
Ocean also invited the crowd to join them, and dozens accepted the
Kagak is the vice president of the dance group. Many of their acts,
like the "Walrus Dance," tell stories passed down through the generations.
are here) to show off our culture, to show off our dances and to
get to see all our friends that we've made through the years," said
Kagak, who wore a ceremonial headdress made of a loon and eagle
feathers along with 30-year-old mukluks that he only breaks out
the group's 40 members "we're a big extended family from
the same family tree," Kagak said were kids as young as 4
years old. They received some of the loudest applause after dancing
on their own to drumming and singing from the rest of the group
seated behind them.
can relate. He's 44 and said he learned how to dance "before I learned
how to walk."
opening ceremonies included a march by the Native Veterans Color
Guard, welcome addresses from North Pole mayors Doug Isaacson of
North Pole and Jim Whitaker of the Fairbanks North Star Borough
and a lighting of the seal oil lamps by Race of the Torch winners
Andrew Marks of Tanana and Delilah DeWilde of Huslia.
the fish-cutting contest was postponed until tonight because of
a shortage of fish. About a dozen whole fish still needed to be
donated, it was announced. Tonight's program also includes the Alaska
high kick, the men's blanket toss preliminaries and a muktuk eating