Just about everywhere in Alaska can you find souvenirs made of moose droppings. These moose nuggets are shellacked and sold as everything from earrings and jewelry to swizzle sticks and Christmas ornaments as well as other “fine” touristy collectibles. Moose droppings abound!
It was something odd that I encountered repeatedly when I first moved here. Still have no real idea why Alaskans or anyone visiting Alaska would want to collect moose poop souvenirs…
There’s even a festival held yearly that celebrates moose poop!
From Anchorage Daily News:
Only in Talkeetna is moose poop worth $1,000
MOOSE DROPPING FESTIVAL: 5-K run won by Grizwald and Pratt is just a part of the fun.
By RON WILMOT
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: July 10, 2005)
In 1989, a woman who said she was with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals contacted board members of the Talkeetna Historical Society. She was indignant, outraged, and disgusted.
She somehow got the idea that people in Talkeetna drop live moose from an airplane — and have the gall to organize a celebration around it. It took some work to convince her that, no, the good people of Talkeetna do not drop live moose from airplanes. They drop moose droppings.
Gina Hansen, manager of the Talkeetna Historical Society museum, was on the board at the time.
“She was aghast. She was outraged,” recalled Hansen with a chuckle. “That was priceless. That will go down in our history.”
And so on Saturday it once again rained moose droppings at the 33rd annual Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival.
According to local legend, the event was hatched over a round of drinks at the Fairview Inn as a way to raise money for the historical society. Locals combed the woods and gathered the saw-dusty moose nuggets and painted them, then sold each dropping with a number printed on it. The droppings were then dropped out of an airplane toward a target. The dropping closest to the target won a prize.
The droppings no longer fall from a plane, said Clarence Wells of the local Myron F. “Ace” Ebling VFW Post 3836. That’s because the original target area, the softball field near the old Talkeetna airstrip, bustles with activity during the Moose Dropping Festival softball tournament.
One year, he recalled, the droppings were released from a helicopter. That didn’t work too well either.
“The downwash of the helicopter just blew them everywhere,” he said.
So this year, the droppings were released from a bag suspended high above the ground by a cable. The cable ran from a large tree to a tall post.
People lined up at a booth in downtown Talkeetna to pay $5 a nugget. As they bought the brightly painted nuggets, VFW members wrote numbers on the nuggets and gave each person a ticket.
Two thousand nuggets were dropped at 6 p.m. Saturday, and the nugget closest to the target won $1,000. Second place earned $500, third through ninth paid out $100, and the nugget furthest from the target was worth $250.
“That way everyone’s got a chance,” said Wells, 70, with a smile.
The throngs of people who flocked to Talkeetna Saturday were there for more than moose droppings and sunny skies.
A 5-kilometer run attracted almost 200 runners and walkers. The softball tournament, played on a cozy field nestled amongst the trees near the old airstrip, attracted 12 teams from around the state. A parade featured floats from local businesses, marching bagpipers from the Anchorage Scottish Pipe Band, blaring fire trucks from the Talkeetna Volunteer Fire Dept. and women from the Red Hat Society.
There was also live music and booths featuring pottery, crafts, prints, food (deep-fried halibut, burgers, turkey legs, bratwurst, Cajun-fried catfish) and one craft product that is certainly unique to Alaska:
Cucumber-melon-scented moose poop fire starters.
Proprietors Robert Georgeson and Casey Steinau of Big Lake soaked moose nuggets in paraffin wax and stuck them together to form a candle-shaped fire starter.
“It’s Alaska sawdust,” Georgeson said as Steinau, wearing a baseball cap festooned with droppings, talked with customers. “It makes perfect fire starter.”
I didn’t copy the rest of the article as it didn’t relate any more to the moose dropping part of the festival.
Alaskans can be a little backwater, a little off. I still discover things about Alaska and Alaskans that leave me shaking my head and thinking, “Only in Alaska!” I’ll share more about our unique weirdness in upcoming blogs.