Heather Lende serves hot dogs at the annual lighting of Fort Seward. Lex Treinen photo.

Mika Gudmundson and Erik Lembke welcomed a baby boy on Nov. 26. Walter Matthias Lembke weighed eight pounds, four ounces when he was born in Juneau at 6 a.m. at Bartlett Regional Hospital. He was 20.5 inches. “We had one day of Thanksgiving leftovers and then we went into labor,” said Gudmundson. The boy – the couple’s first – has so far been relatively calm. “He’s kinda an old soul. He’s serious, with contemplative expressions,” said Gudmundson, adding that he had rather big hands and feet. Walter is the name of Lembke’s grandfather, and Matthias is Gudmundson’s grandfather. Both parents said

they were doing well and in good health. Gudmundon’s dad Dennis Gudmundson was in town for the birth, as was Lembke’s mom, Kate Willard. Uncle Kaegan Gudmundson was also in town.

Dozens of residents gathered at Fort Seward by the CIA tribal house for the annual lighting of the fort on Saturday. Gatherers were served hot dogs by Heather Lende and hot chocolate by Jane Pascoe. Mayor Tom Morphet said the ceremony has been held since 2004, but a group led by Annette Smith had stepped back from the responsibility last year. Morphet said he put $150 from the Mayor‘s discretionary budget to buy hot dogs and hot cocoa and Sarah Cohen of Old Field Kitchen donated electricity for lighting. The ceremony went off with the usual cannon blast. “It’s a great event. It’s a great holiday tradition in Haines and we’d like to see it continue in some form,” said Morphet. “We need a new group to take it over.”

Haines appeared in the latest edition of Trends, a monthly magazine from the Alaska Department of Labor, in a list of different average work commute times. The average Haines resident travels 11.2 minutes to get to work, according to the article. That’s well below the highest region, the Mat-Su Valley, which averages 36.1 minutes. The U.S. average commute is 26.8 minutes. Residents of Yakutat have the shortest commute time of just 4.6 minutes, according to the study. The study also found that nearly one in five Chilkat Valley residents worked in a different community than Haines, as of 2021.

Four middle school students were recognized for their leadership and kindness at an awards ceremony last week. Meg Davis, Alivia Martin and Talis Swaner were recognized in their grade, as well as Kyla George, who won an overall award, based on nominations by peers. Haines School principal Lilly Boron said the awards were a culmination of a middle school kindness campaign that has been going on at the school for weeks. Students have been leaving anonymous notes of gratitude for different students and staff throughout the last few weeks. Students were awarded coupons for Glacier Bear swag and other prizes, including some donated by alumni John Plucker (class of 2001) and Brianna Baarson (class of 2007). Haines student representative Selby Long gave a speech at the assembly. “This was really great because it came from the students and it was organized in a very special way. It really was special,” said Boron. Vanessa Salmon, a counselor at Haines School, said there have been numerous examples of acts of kindness at the school recently. “A group of 7th and 8th grade girls recently went and sat at a table with a student who had been sitting alone at lunch. They were warm, inviting, and really went out of their way to ensure that the student felt included,” she said in an email.

Several locals were in a recent CBS News piece about advocates fighting against the proposed mine at the Palmer Project, which was published online on Nov. 30. Lani Hotch, Gershon Cohen and Mario Benassi were featured. “I wish it woulda been longer, but according to what I understand Kissinger passing away screwed the time slot,” joked Benassi. Cohen and Benassi said they were glad for the national attention about their efforts to prevent industrial mine development in the valley. They said after it aired, they heard from people around the world looking to support the effort, and said they were talking to others producers, including 60 Minutes, about doing a longer piece about the proposed mine

Jenae’s Playground will break ground next year, thanks to a $150,000 donation from the Lucy Harrell Memorial Fund. Jenae Larson was a kindergarten teacher in Haines who died in the 2020 landslide. A group has been working to raise $725,000 to build a playground in her name since then but was still $150,000 short coming into this winter. Mary Cochran, who sits on the advisory board for the fund, brought the issue to the rest of the board. “It was a pretty easy decision,” said Vince Hansen, another board member. The fund is designed to support causes that Lucy Harrell would have supported, including social services and supporting persons with disabilities and the elderly. The playground will be on the school grounds. “It’s gonna be super positive for our school. It’s a testament to what happens when a community comes together and a mother works relentlessly to honor her daughter,” said superintendent Roy Getchell.

Six Haines Dolphins swimmers recently returned from Whitehorse where they competed in the Ryan Downing Memorial Invitational Swim Meet on Nov. 17-18. After a long drive, the swimmers had to arrive at the pool by 5:30 a.m. Haines time (7:30 Yukon time) for the races. Coach Jim Green said the meet recognized swimmers who set personal best times, and every Haines swimmer did (McConnell Robinson, Grady Robinson, Sita Price, Canaan Larson, Hattie Larson, and Zephyr Cox, who was at his first meet). Green said overall the meet was a success, all the way down to the pool pizza party after the competitions.

The Holly Jolly Follies has most of its acts confirmed, said producer DeLise Keim. Among the confirmed acts she wanted to highlight are a Tlingit caroling group, the bell choir, and a ukulele singalong group. Willis Fireball, a traveling musician, will be making a guest appearance with a selection of original seasonal songs including, potentially, one called ‘Christmas Adam’ (get it?). There will also be short skits and costumes. “It’s coming together nicely,” said Keim. “We have a nice variety of acts, but we’re still looking for Christmas props if anyone wants to let us borrow them.” Anyone with jingle bells or other holiday-themed props they wish to lend can contact Keim at 907-314-2428.