This weekend, seal hop and stick pull are taking center stage in Soldotna.
As part of the annual Peninsula Winter Games, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe is hosting this year’s regional Native Youth Olympics Invitational.
Michael Bernard is the tribe’s Yaghanen Youth Program administrator and one of the event's coordinators.
“We are the drug, alcohol, and tobacco prevention program for the tribe, so we try and stress living a healthy lifestyle with our kids and try to mentor them as best we can," said Bernard.
The invitational will feature both Dene- and Inuit-style games like the high kick, scissor broad jump, and stick pull.
The focus is on the same events that will be featured later this year at the Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s statewide NYO games.
“We do that so that so that the kids in the area can kind of go out and get a chance to compete before their major competitions," said Bernard. "So, we don’t really do any of the pain games like the ear pull, although the kids that do the seal hop would probably say that definitely is painful.”
The invitational was tacked onto the larger winter games a few years ago to add a culturally relevant opportunity for local youth.
Although he never competed growing up, Bernard said he now looks forward to watching NYO games because they are so inclusive.
“I just love all the events, really," said Bernard. "The main reason is because any child can come out whether they’re tall or short, heavy or thin, older or younger, no matter what shape they’re in, they can succeed in any of the games. There’s always something for somebody to do well in. Maybe if you’re not really good at doing the high kick, you might be really good at doing stick pull and vice versa. So, I’m excited to see all the games, personally.”
As of Thursday afternoon, there were nearly 150 kids signed up.
Organizers are leaving a few spots open on the roster for kids who want to participate but who are not part of an official team. They’ll just have to bring a parent or guardian along who can sign a permission form allowing them to play.
Volunteers and coaches will also be on site to help out all of the competitors.
The games will kick off at 6 p.m. Friday at the Mountain View gym in Soldotna with an opening ceremony starting at 5:30 p.m.