Stories from Alaska

An insider's journey through Alaska's best kept secrets

What Are Alaska’s 5 Most Bizarre Claims To Fame?

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We know, you’re dying to know! These are the ultimate cocktail party teasers and are sure to get the party rolling once your friends find out you’re on your way to ALASKA.

Here Are Alaska’s 5 Most Bizarre Claims To Fame:

CLAIM #1: Free money for everyone!

For at least one day every fall, Alaskans feel flush with cash. That’s because since 1982, each qualifying Alaska resident receives an annual divided check based on the investment performance of the multi-billion-dollar, oil-money-fueled Alaska Permanent Fund. Payouts have been as large as $2,072 and as low as $331. Some Alaskans view the dividend check as a birthright while others would prefer the money be used to improve the state’s services and infrastructure. But everyone agrees that the Permanent Fund Dividend check is one of Alaska’s “richest” perks (and quirks).

CLAIM #2: From the brightest summer to the darkest winter 

There are many legends about Alaska, the “Land of the Midnight Sun” and this unique state’s relationship with the big bright orb. But here are the facts: because of Alaska’s global positioning, the sun can seem inescapable in the summer and totally elusive in the winter. For most of the state though, the sun does set in the brightest stretches of summer and rises in the darkest depths of winter, usually for at least a few hours. Even Fairbanks gets around three hours of sun in the winter and a few hours without the sun in the summer. However, on Alaska’s North Slope, communities like Barrow and Deadhorse go more than two months without seeing the sun rise in the winter and nearly three months without experiencing a sunset in the summer.

CLAIM #3: Sarah Palin

Without doubt, Sarah Palin is one of America’s most polarizing personalities – and we aren’t talking about Alaska’s circumpolar northern region. No matter how you feel about her, Palin probably drew more attention – and television cameras – to Alaska, her home state, than any other person in modern history. Always charismatic and hardworking, Palin was a high school basketball star, beauty queen and eventual mayor of her hometown, Wasilla. Her family embodied Alaska lifestyles – fishing commercially, riding and racing snow machines, hunting and having fun all around Alaska. Her political career and rise to fame was meteoric – 10 years in city politics, four years of varied roles in state government, then becoming Alaska’s youngest (42) and first female governor in 2006. In August 2008, she was the surprise selection of presidential hopeful John McCain, catapulting her – and by association, Alaska – into national stardom and infamy. The rest, as they say, is her story.

CLAIM #4: Experiencing the “real” Alaska on reality TV

One of the biggest byproducts of the Palin media mania was journalists getting exposed to Alaska’s unique lifestyles and distinctive personalities and then sharing those experiences with the world. TV producers suddenly salivated with the programming possibilities and Alaska became a hotbed for reality TV shows. Since, there have been Alaska-based programs about planes and trains, troopers and truckers, hearty crews harvesting crab, even heartier families living in the wild, and, of course, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” A few shows have become hits, though most were misses and arguably none truly capture what Alaskans consider real life in their state.

CLAIM #5: Attack of the monster vegetables!

When Alaska’s seemingly endless summer sun meets fertile soil and pioneering lifestyles, the results are garden giants. Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna region is home to fanatical farmers who cultivate massive vegetables. How big? In the Mat-Su, 1,000-pound pumpkins, 100-pound cabbages, 30-pound beets, 20-pound broccoli and 10-pound carrots are not unusual. Now that’s a lot of salad! The state’s biggest vegetables are ceremoniously weighed and put on display every harvest season at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. It’s a must-see experience for visitors. If you aren’t around in fall, you can always see and taste Alaska’s veggies and fruits at regular farmer’s markets across the state.