2019 at KNOM: Year in Review
In a highlight from 2019, fans cheer for Pete Kaiser at the Iditarod finish line in Nome.
Alaska’s new governor, Mike Dunleavy, is inaugurated. The ceremony was intended to be held in Noorvik, the home village of First Lady Rose Dunleavy. Weather conditions prevent landing in the village, so the inaugural ceremony is held in the nearby city of Kotzebue. Once the weather clears, the First Family is given a hearty welcome to Noorvik.
Winter in Nome can be tough: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Nome’s new day shelter is a safe and warm haven. Two shelters partner to provide a warm place for the homeless to go for 23 hours a day, the most comprehensive homelessness services ever offered in Nome. Lance Johnson, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Norton Sound Regional Hospital (and a KNOM deejay in his off hours), says the shelter also helps break down barriers to mental health services to Nome’s homeless
The Nome hospital unveils a new MRI-machine, as the first Native-owned medical provider in the nation to have one. The Norton Sound Health Corporation estimates that this machine will help approximately 350 rural patients each year, who would otherwise have to go to Anchorage: an often painful and complicated trip, involving hotel stays and multiple flights that could be delayed or canceled. Earlier diagnoses are expected to help patients’ prognoses as more time for treatment is allowed.
The crowd at the Nome finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race are extra raucuous this year, as Yup’ik champion Pete Kaiser of Bethel wins the race. As usual, KNOM is an important source of Iditarod news, following teams all the way from the race start in Willow to the Nome finish. News director Davis Hovey works closely with Ben Matheson (a former KNOM volunteer) to provide detailed race coverage as mushers and dog teams make rest stops in villages along the 1,000 mile-long trail.
The spring thaw begins in Western Alaska after an exceptionally wet and snowy winter in Nome. General Manager Margaret takes engineer Van Craft out for a trip to the station’s AM transmitter site, donning snow shoes and a sled to haul repair and replacement parts. Fellow engineer Les Brown assisted from the studio. Throughout the year, this dynamic duo help provide KNOM with the essential maintenance that keeps our signal beaming.
Vera Metcalf, Director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission, is inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame. She is widely recognized as an expert on Arctic issues. Among other things, she works to ensure ancestral remains were returned to her home community of St. Lawrence Island, and is an advocate for traditional knowledge. Metcalf, pictured here with her husband Bob, is also the author of a source book on St. Lawrence Island heritage, published by the Smithsonian Institution.
Koyuk high school students facilitate a workshop for their peers about preventing bullying and substance abuse for more than 25 fellow students. The students are so enthusiastic about the project they have difficulty narrowing down the subject. Teacher Amanda Trower tells listeners her students are “actually getting to step up and be the leaders they’ve been learning how to be”. Also, the new weekly “Kids’ Show” on KNOM, featuring children’s music and interactive programming, is a hit with listeners.
Nome brothers Oliver and Wilson Hoogendorn are the first to summit Denali this year. The climb up to the 20,310-foot peak is an immense physical accomplishment. Only half the climbers who attempt it succeed. The trip is the fulfilment of a high school graduation pledge: to hike up and ski down the tallest mountain in the United States. They tell listeners they were overcome with gratitude for being able to look at Alaska from a height of nearly 4 miles, adding: “We could almost pick up KNOM. We tried really hard!”
A recent spot series honoring the many veterans of Western Alaska brings about an interview with Alaska Army National Guard veteran Paul Bekoalok in Shaktoolik. He tells listeners that he has no regrets for his service. During the interview about his service, Paul reaches for the cross he wore in the Middle East and in a touching gesture says he “wants it to live at KNOM now”, to help the mission live out Christ’s message.
A week-long camp in the historic community of Solomon prompts children and youth from communities around the state, and some from as far south as Oregon, to return to their ancestral home. Camp planners share with listeners that engaging in Inupiaq lessons and the traditional activities their grandparents describe strengthens the youth’s connection to their culture. Tribal leaders say the camp is the first step of many to return to living in Solomon year-round.
KNOM staff and volunteers must be flexible, and their ministry often necessitates a wide variety of duties. Our lead reporter goes on a road trip with Bishop Chad and Father Kumar to the village of Teller, accessible by a dirt road that is still drivable thanks to a very late snowfall this year. The bishop celebrates Mass in the simple little church. Bishop Chad Zielinski is a popular figure among Catholics in Western Alaska, and his voice is frequently heard sharing messages of hope, healing, and mercy on KNOM. Thank you, Bishop Chad, for helping KNOM offer gentle reminders of grace on the airwaves.
Oh, the cuteness! A community announcement requests photos and contestants for a first-ever indigenous fashion show and baby pageant. Qaspeqs from around the Norton Sound region are shared for this Indigenous People’s Day event, held by the Norton Sound Health Corporation. Pictures are seen online by many who were unable to be present in person.