Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday shopping? We can help.

Still looking for a meaningful gift for someone special on your holiday list?

We can help.

Order Alaska Far Away, Where the River Matanuska Flows, or BOTH films, and we will ship right away.

Who will enjoy receiving our films?  Your parents. Your grandparents. Your aunts and uncles. Your nieces and nephews. Your kids. Your kids who went off to college. Your kids who got married and now have homes of their own. Your kid's teacher. Your kid's school.  Your local library. Your local retirement home. Your neighbors. Your co-workers. Your friends. Or, frankly, just about anyone. Including yourself.

How do we know they will like them? Because we've shown our films countless times all over the country, and the response has been uniformly enthusiastic. People love these films because they make them laugh. They make them cry. They make them think. They make them reflect on their own family, and their own heritage. They learn something about our country that they didn't know before, but are very glad they learned.

So order our films, separately or together ($10 discount if you order them both!), and we'll pay the shipping. 

Just go to the page "Buy DVD's" (see tab above) to place your order. Thank you!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alaska State Fair Wrap-Up

Another Alaska State Fair is now over, and we're back in San Francisco sorting through photos, notes, and memories.

First, the photos. Are you following us on Facebook yet? We've posted dozens of photos from the Fair on our Facebook page. Follow this link to see the photos, and if you haven't already "Liked" our page, please take a moment to do so to stay up-to-date on all the news.


We had a steady stream of visitors to the Wineck Barn all day every day throughout the Fair. Some came specifically to see our films.  Some came in specifically to buy our DVDs (we LOVE those folks!).  Some came out of curiosity - the barn is one of the first things you see when you come in the Red Gate at the Fair.  And many were drawn in by the lure of the Wineck Barn itself, standing big and majestic against Pioneer Peak, sporting a brand-new red roof.  It was easy to tell the people who knew about barns: the first thing they did when entering the barn was look up, to check out the construction.  Earl Wineck, the 86-year old son of Ed Wineck, who built the barn, visited us several times throughout the Fair to talk about its history and construction, so we were able to talk knowledgably about the barn to visitors.  Most of the barn is still original: the log walls, the windows and doors, the beams, and even the oakum chinking that keeps the Valley winds from blowing through the walls. People loved exploring the barn, and checking out the construction details.

Speaking of barns, Helen Hegener visited the Wineck Barn on September 1st to talk about her upcoming book, Matanuska Colony Barns.  She was joined by special guests Earl Wineck, and another colony kid, Wayne Bouwens, who knows a great deal about colony barns himself.  What a memorable afternoon! Many thanks to all who stopped by to listen, learn, and share their own knowledge of the barns.

Helen Hegener and Earl Wineck
Earl Wineck and Wayne Bouwens checking colony tract maps for barn locations

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Talking barns

It is a real pleasure showing our films in the Wineck Barn.  Many of the visitors to the Alaska State Fair come in just to look at the barn itself.  So it is always a pleasure when colony kid Earl Wineck, whose father Ed built the barn in 1936, stops by to share his stories about the barn and teach us more about its construction and history.

On August 29 Earl came by and talked with Helen Hegener, who is writing a book about the Matanuska Colony Barns. Helen had come to the barn to photograph it and learn more about it, so she was delighted to be able to talk with Earl and explore the barn together.

Helen will be joining us in the Wineck Barn on Saturday, September 1st at 1:30 to talk about her upcoming book, "Matanuska Colony Barns."  She has been traveling around the Matanuska Valley to photograph the barns (26 already), and is researching the history of each barn. Join us for this event, and learn more about these beautiful, historic buildings. 

Colony Kids

On August 26 author Heather Lehe came by to talk about her new novel, "Colony Kids."  We're excited about this book because as far as we know it is the first time anyone has written the story of the Matanuska Colony from the point of view of the kids who came up to Alaska with the colony in 1935.  The book, which is written for 5th-to-8th graders, tells the story of the first year of the colony through the eyes of a 13-year old boy and his friends.  Heather did much of her research by watching our films, and then talking to some of the colony kids themselves.  Here she is with us in the Wineck Barn:

Speaking of colony kids, several of them have visited us at the Fair. It is always a pleasure to have them drop by and chat about colony history. Here are Mr. and Mrs. Paul Barry looking at our books in the Barn.

Colony History Garden at the Alaska State Fair

On August 25 teachers from Machetanz Elementary School visited us in the Wineck Barn at the Alaska State Fair to tell us about the Colony History Garden they planted at the school this year. They built ten raised 10'x4' beds, and planted vegetables and flowers originally planted by the Matanuska Colonists in 1935.  The garden helps them teach history, agriculture, science, math, and other subjects, as well as teachng the students about community. The beautiful produce they are raising will help the students eat healthier food, and they are also sharing their bounty with the local food bank.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alaska State Fair, here we come!

The Alaska State Fair edition of our newsletter came out today, with all the information you need to see us at the State Fair.  Click here to see our newsletter.

Using the beautiful Wineck Barn (right inside the Red Gate) as our home base, we're offering daily screenings* of Alaska Far Away and Where the River Matanuska Flows and exhibits that highlight local history.

And there's more! We've added FOUR very special events for audiences of all ages. And everything in the Wineck Barn is FREE with your Fair admission.

Here's what we've got lined up:
* Daily at 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m.* - Alaska Far Away
* Daily at 2:00 p.m.* - Where the River Matanuska Flows
     * Note: No screenings on Sunday, September 2, as the Wineck Barn will be hosting Alaska Native Cultures Day events. No screening of "Where the River Matanuska Flows" on August 30 due to Hay Bale Theater event.

* Saturday 8/25 at 11:00 a.m. - Colony History Garden - Students and teachers from Machetanz Elementary School planted a special garden in May, featuring only crops planted by the original Matanuska Colonists in 1935.  They will be sharing the story of their garden in the Wineck Barn.

* Sunday 8/26 at 11:00 a.m. - Most of the colonists who arrived in Palmer in 1935 were children. Author Heather Cooper Lehe has written a novel about that first summer from the point of view of the colony kids. Come here Heather read from her novel, Colony Kids.

Thursday 8/30 at 2:00 p.m. - Celebrate ALASKA GROWN DAY in the Wineck Barn! A special presentation of Hay Bale Theater will be showing films celebrating Alaska's rich agricultural heritage. What better place to watch films about farming in Alaska than in an historic barn? 
* Saturday 9/1 at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. - Author and photographer Helen Hegener is writing a book about the Matanuska Colony barns. Come see her photos and hear what she has learned about these historic structures.

* Daily from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. - The Valley Arts Alliance is sharing the Wineck Barn with us this year, displaying works by local artists that have all been created out of one local birch tree. Come learn about the One Tree project, and see what these artists have created.

See you at the Fair!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bringing History to the Alaska State Fair

The Alaska State Fair is right around the corner, and once again we will be showcasing Colony history in the historic Wineck Barn at the Fair, right inside the Red Gate.  (Stay tuned - we'll be posting more about the history of the Wineck Barn soon.)

Film Screenings:  We will present screenings of Alaska Far Away at 12:00 noon and 5:00 p.m., and Where the River Matanuska Flows at 2:00 p.m. These screenings are FREE with your Fair admission, so bring the family, rest your feet, and enjoy the shows.  The films will be shown daily (except for Sunday September 2nd).

Special Author Event:  We are excited to present local author Helen Hegener of Northern Light Media, who will be talking about her upcoming book, Matanuska Colony Barns. Helen will be showing photos of colony barns, and talking about their history and design.  Please stop by:  Saturday, September 1 at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m

More Special Events:  More special events are in the works; we'll be announcing them in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

Shopping?  Of course! Alaska Far Away and Where the River Matanuska Flows will both be available for purchase in the Wineck Barn. Bring Matanuska history home with you!

Get Updates via Email:  Want to receive the latest updates?  Drop us a line at alaskafaraway @ aol.com.  We promise we only send you news when there's news to send, and we don't share your address with anyone.

See you at the Alaska State Fair!

Friday, February 3, 2012

We're excited that Alaska Far Away is finally coming to Milwaukee Public Television (WMVT-TV Channel 36.1; Mon. 2/6 at 8; Sat. 2/11 at 12:30). This film has deep roots in Milwaukee.

When we first started working on Alaska Far Away in 1994, Milwaukee was the site of one of our first and most important interviews. We flew to Milwaukee to interview venerable journalist Arville Schaleben, Editor Emeritus of the Milwaukee Journal. Back in 1935, when he was just a cub reporter, the Journal tapped him to cover the story of a lifetime. They sent him to Alaska along with the 67 families who had been selected from Wisconsin's relief roles to take part in the bold New Deal experiment, the Matanuska Colony. Arville travelled over 4,000 with these Wisconsin families, and lived alongside them in the tent city for four months, filing stories almost daily that were not only printed in Milwaukee, but syndicated around the country. His body of work from Matanuska - over 150 stories and more than 400 photographs - was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Schaleben returned to the Matanuska Valley periodically throughout his life, following up on the story that he claimed was the best of his long career.

Our interview with Arville that day provided insights into the Matanuska Colony that added depth and richness to the film. His articles and photographs are used throughout the film to provide perspective and a sense of immediacy that only comes from such on-location reporting. We are deeply grateful to Arville Schaleben and his family for allowing us to share his work in our film.

One more Milwaukee note:  After visiting the offices of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in 1994 to talk to them about Alaska Far Away, the paper sent writer Jim Stingl and photographer Jim Gehrz to the Matanuska Valley. The resulting 10-page spread that appeared in the paper's Sunday supplement Wisconsin Magazine is a beautiful tribute to these New Deal Pioneers.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In 1935 the U.S. government sent 68 families from Wisconsin to the Matanuska Valley in Alaska as part of an ambitious New Deal resettlement project. On February 6th, for the first time, their story will be seen on Milwaukee public television.

Alaska Far Away will have its Milwaukee-area premiere on Monday, February 6th at 8 p.m. on WMVT-TV (Channel 36.1). Alaska Far Away has deep roots in the Milwaukee area, featuring many articles and photographs by Arville Schaleben, who in 1935 was a cub reporter for the Milwaukee Journal (now the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). The newspaper sent him to Alaska along with the Wisconsin colonists to get the exclusive story on the Matanuska Colony. Schaleben's articles - over 150 stories filed over a four-month period - were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. When we interviewed him in 1994, after a long, illustrious journalism career, Schaleben told us that the Matanuska Colony was the story of a lifetime, his favorite assignment, and an important part of American history. Tune in on February 6th and see for yourself.

Milwaukee Journal reporter Arville Schaleben writing his daily dispatch from the Matanuska Colony in 1935.