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Dancing for Days

Photo of the Anchorage Kingikmiut Dancers and Singers dancing at the Kingikmiut Dance Festival in Wales.
The Anchorage Kingikmiut Dancers and Singers perform at the 2019 Kingikmiut Dance Festival in Wales.

Among Western Alaska’s most joyous annual events is the Kingikmiut Dance Festival. It’s a gathering of drumming and dancing ensembles from throughout the region for a weekend of happy reunions, fellowship, community-building, and song late into the night.

A photo of Roy Roberts drumming.
Roy Roberts has performed traditional music since 1985; he’s been a member of the Anchorage Kingikmiut Dancers and Singers since 1992. Here, he sings a song he wrote for his grandparents about chopping firewood. Photo: JoJo Phillips.

Kingikmiut takes place in Wales, the westernmost community in the North American mainland and a village within KNOM listening country. The festival is named for an historic settlement where Wales is now located.

Thanks to an ongoing sponsorship trade-out with a regional airline, volunteer fellows Joe Coleman and JoJo Phillips flew to Wales for free. The trip wasn’t just radio-related. On their second day, JoJo worked in the kitchen, where he spent “4 hours filleting salmon and cooking reindeer stew” alongside Anna Oxereok, Kingikmiut organizer and President of the Village of Wales.

It’s part of the spirit of gatherings in Western Alaska: everyone brings something to the table, everyone gets something to eat, and everyone is invited to dance and to sing. And, JoJo adds, “everyone was incredibly kind and generous.”

Top image: The Anchorage Kingikmiut Dancers and Singers perform at the 2019 Kingikmiut Dance Festival in Wales. Photo: JoJo Phillips.

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