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From Our Listeners

Southeast Alaska News

Library Report

Tue, 2014-04-08 08:49

Linda Lyshol speaks about “An Evening of Chocolate,” activities for children, movies, gardening workshops and more.  Library040814

Where no shop class has gone before

Tue, 2014-04-08 07:31

Pat Kraft and John Neibergall. Kraft is holding a geodesic sphere — with seven concentric geodesic spheres inside it. “There’s no conventional tool that can make this,” he says. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

This is not your grandfather’s shop class.

Late last month a group of high school and college shop teachers and a few of their students gathered for a three-day workshop in Sitka’s state-of-the-art Design and Fabrication Lab.

The use of 3D printers and other computer-controlled equipment has revolutionized shop, and turned one of the most remote classrooms in the building into the coolest place in school.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

KCAW – Tell me your name, where you’re from, and what you’re doing here.
Neibergall – John Neibergall, Sherwood High School. I’m helping some teachers and students get into digital design and fabrication.

Sherwood High is outside of Portland, Oregon.

Neibergall – You got an idea, you want to make a model or an output of something in three dimensions — whether you build it in wood, metal, plastic, 3D print it. You have to visualize it, and then you get to print it. You have an output of a product in your hand. And that’s what get kids excited.

Read a story about a recent project created by shop students in the Sitka Design and Fabrication Lab.

Yes, digital fabrication gets kids excited. But in this workshop the teachers can barely contain their enthusiasm.

My name is Pat Kraft. I’m one of the instructors at Portland Community College, in Portland. I grew up in an era where Star Trek was, you know — Star Trek was young, I was young, and the thought of having a replicator, where you could put something in there and create something just like it.

And now they have the tools to create just about any kind of machine part. Even parts that are not for machines.

Kent Winship models a skull on CAD software, before printing in 3D. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Winship — I’m Kent Winship with Bristol Bay/Dillingham campus, UAF
KCAW — What are you working on right now?
Winship — This is a scan. We’ve got a fetal orca whale that swam up the Freshwater River. Two parents, and one of them was pregnant. So we’ve got the fetus. It’s mostly cartilage. And we’re going to try to scan it, and then print it out in plastic before we lose those cartilage parts.
KCAW – Scan it how?
Winship – A laser scanner than can measure a surface at 20,000 points per square inch. It will record it and put it into a CAD — computer aided drafting program — and we can actually print it out in plastic. And were even talking about trying to mill it out of a CNC mill out of bone or something.

CNC stands for computer numerical control. Besides a pair of 3D printers, this lab has a CNC vinyl cutter, and a laser engraver. What’s got these guys most excited is not necessarily the ability to make a whale fetus, it’s about trying to make that fetus, and failing.

Neibergall and Kraft are pioneering the integration of technology into shop class. They say repetition is education.

Neibergall — Kids are afraid to fail, and this forces them to fail — or fail forward, if you will. If it doesn’t work, you can tweak it…
Kraft — Failure’s okay. Because that’s part of the improvement process.
Neibergall — Because that’s what industry wants: People who aren’t afraid to fail forward. Reinvent. Remodify. And make it right. And it might take four or five iterations. But we can do it quickly.

“I failed…”

Randy Hughey is the recently-retired wood shop teacher at Sitka High. He wrote the grants for Sitka’s Fab Lab and helped a local grant writer, Lily Herwald, develop the proposal for this workshop.

Hughey has microwaved some chocolate chips, with unfortunate results.

“Well, I was just trying to melt chocolate to put into this mold that John has made.”

Metlakatla Science teacher Jason Pipkin watches as the printer creates metric screws for a quadcopter his students are building. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Digitally fabricated custom candy bar molds. This technology gives kids the ability to aim for the stars, but a prom date is not a bad start.

Neibergall — What my kids did is made prom invitations for the young ladies, wrapped it up in chocolate, and it said Prom? on it.
KCAW — Wow!

For a moment, it sounds like the shop class I remember. But it’s not. John Neibergall assures me that I’m looking at a different sort of future for technical education.

KCAW — Shop used to be the dark space at the end of the hall.
Neibergall — Dumping grounds? That’s the term we tend to say. But now the creative piece that is driving the economic recovery is manufacturing. And if we can get young people excited about that and see the career potential, that’s what’s going to help us get out of our slump, if you will.
KCAW — It comes back to Star Trek, eventually.
Neibergall and Kraft — Right!

$1.9B capital budget unveiled

Tue, 2014-04-08 00:06

JUNEAU — The Senate Finance Committee unveiled a $1.9 billion capital budget Monday, which co-chair Kevin Meyer said was in keeping with the goal of a smaller state infrastructure budget.

One of Meyer’s other goals was to have the state finish projects it has started and to maintain Alaska’s existing infrastructure. To that end, the bill includes $37.5 million to finish the state library, archives and museum building in downtown Juneau and $45.6 million to complete the engineering building at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

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SLAM, Juneau Access road top city's capital budget funding

Tue, 2014-04-08 00:06

Juneau’s delegation accomplished one of its top priority for this legislative session by securing the funds needed to ensure the State Library and Museum Project is completed.

The state’s capital improvements budget released Monday includes $37.5 million for the SLAM project, along with millions more for improving Glacier Highway and Egan Drive, and funding for the hotly debated Juneau Access Project.

read more

TRS pulled from education bill in House

Tue, 2014-04-08 00:05

JUNEAU — The Alaska House voted to remove a plan to address the teachers’ retirement system from a broad-ranging education bill it began debating late Monday afternoon.

The House, on a 27-13 vote, also added $30 million in one-time funding for school districts on top of a proposed increase in the per-pupil funding formula known as the base student allocation.

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Alaska officials revise oil production estimates

Tue, 2014-04-08 00:05

JUNEAU — The state Revenue Department is forecasting higher oil production than previously expected, though the overall, long-term trend is still one of decline.

North Slope production for this year is now forecast at 521,800 barrels per day, up from the 508,200 barrels per day forecast in December, which Deputy Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman called a “banner headline.”

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KPU official responds to electric meter concerns

Mon, 2014-04-07 15:53

Andy Donato brought some new electronic meters to show the Ketchikan City Council the different kinds that Ketchikan Public Utilities uses.

Ketchikan Public Utilities is moving slowly toward a new style of electric meter. But some people are resisting the change. They believe the new meters provide too much personal information, and are potentially harmful to health.

In response to those concerns, the Ketchikan City Council asked Electric Division Manager Andy Donato to give a presentation about electric meters.

Electro-mechanical meters have been used to measure electric use since the late 1800s. They were state-of-the-art technology at that time, but they’re no longer made.

“The problem we have with meters right now is, we don’t have access to newly built electro-mechanical style meters,” Donato said. “All we have left in our inventory is surplus ones: Ones we pull out of service that still test good, and we hang onto them.”

The new kind of meter available now is electronic, which Donato said provides better accuracy, is more reliable, and has lower maintenance costs. Some customers might notice that their electric bills are higher after switching. Donato said that’s because the old-style meters lose accuracy as they age.

“As they wear, and they have typically a 30-year-life, they get higher and higher frictional losses, to the point where they don’t work, or they don’t inventory correctly,” he said. “As a utility company that needs its revenue, it’s important that we have accurate metered service.”

Donato said about one in four or five customers will notice higher bills with the new meters.

He described some of those new meters, which some people have referred to as smart meters. However, “SmartMeters” is a brand name, and those digital electric meters have certain features. Donato said that KPU doesn’t buy SmartMeters.

One of the new meters KPU uses is no-frills, and reads manually like the old-style meters. A second style is the radio-read meter, which allows KPU to read remotely it, from a distance of up to about 100 yards. Donato said that kind of meter is activated only when it’s read, which means a few seconds each month.

“There are folks in the Lower 48 that are really opposed to the Radio-Read style, but particularly the Smart style,” he said. “These don’t have all those frills that do lots of interrogation. The interest or the fear there is RF energy. These, the communication length is about 8 seconds.”

Donato said the RF, or radio frequency, level for that communication is lower than, for example, the natural radio frequency from the Earth, and much lower than the exposure from talking on a cell phone.

A third meter style communicates directly to the utility company through the wires, so it is not read by a meter reader and the power is contained within the wires.

Sometimes, new meters are installed because it’s become challenging to get close to the meter. Some people make the meters inaccessible when they remodel their homes, or enclose a yard. And then there’s the dogs. Laura Huffine reads electric meters for KPU, and attended the Council meeting.

“I love dogs, have a couple of my own,” she said. “I’ve been lucky and never gotten bit, but there are some dogs that act a little different when mom and dad aren’t around. When they enclose their meter in an area where the dog is, it makes it a little difficult for me to get in there and do anything other than have one of these other style of meters where I don’t put myself in jeopardy going in to get the reading.”

Regarding the information collected, Donato stressed that the utility only looks at how much power is used. True SmartMeters can allow a utility to monitor use hourly, and can allow both the utility and customer to manage power by turning off certain appliances, such as water heaters, during peak demand. Donato said KPU’s meters don’t have that ability.

A group called Ketchikan for Meter Choice has formed, and has an online petition asking the local government to not require KPU customers to have the new meters on their homes.

Donato said he understands that some people have concerns.

“Trust me, I’m not here to upset anybody,” he said. “I just want to put the information out there and do what we all decide is best.”

KPU has about 200 surplus old-style meters in the warehouse. And, as long as one is available, Donato said he is willing to work with customers who prefer them. However, Donato said those meters won’t last forever and eventually will have to be switched out.

Alaska to sue for King Cove road

Mon, 2014-04-07 15:15

The state of Alaska is taking its fight with the federal government over a 10-mile, “life-saving” road to King Cove to the courts.

Gov. Sean Parnell announced his intentions Monday in a press release, calling the December rejection of the road “unconscionable.”

“In just the last several weeks, serious health-related evacuations have shown just how critical a road for medical evacuations is for residents,” Parnell said.

The lawsuit will be based on a historic right-of-way, according to the press release.

read more

Bad weather delays chloramine switch

Mon, 2014-04-07 14:34

An engineer who was going to assist Ketchikan Public Utilities in its switch to chloramine water disinfection wasn’t able to land Monday morning because of weather, and ended up in Wrangell.

Water Division Manager John Kleinegger says the engineer landed in time to catch an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry headed toward Ketchikan, and was due to arrive Monday evening.

Kleinegger says the utility might start adding ammonia to the system Monday evening, or perhaps Tuesday evening.

He says chloramine-treated water will first show up in the Bear Valley area, and then will move down Schoenbar Road toward downtown. Some neighborhoods, such as those above Baranof in the Carlanna area, won’t get chloramine-treated water until later in the week, because of the time it takes for the water to move through the system.

Chloramine is a mixture of chlorine and a small amount of ammonia. The city uses chlorine as the primary disinfectant now, but because of high levels of regulated byproducts in Ketchikan’s water, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is requiring that the city make some kind of change.

The city chose chloramine, and has been working toward the new system for about a decade.

A group called United Citizens for Better Water formed this winter to oppose the switch, primarily citing concerns over possible health effects. That group is spearheading a ballot initiative process that, if approved, would ask voters to prohibit the city from using chloramine.

It’s not too late!

Mon, 2014-04-07 12:56

The White Rabbit might have been late for a very important date, but there is still plenty of time for you to support Raven Radio if we missed you during our One Day Drive! We are behind last year’s pace and we need to hear from the almost 200 members that haven’t renewed yet. You can make your contribution online, or call 747-5877 weekdays during business hours. Thanks to those who have already contributed!

MS Walk and info

Mon, 2014-04-07 12:16

Lauren Munhoven shares her experiences being diagnosed and living with Multiple Sclerosis.  She and Jay Rhodes give details about the upcoming Walk for MS.  MS040714

Here is a link to the website

Update: Sealaska dividends include no earnings

Mon, 2014-04-07 11:35

Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil Jr. addresses Juneau’s Native Issues Forum April 2, 2014. The corporation’s spring distribution includes no operating revenue. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

The Sealaska regional Native corporation does not appear to be making much – if any – money. Its spring distribution to shareholders, which is basically a dividend, includes no corporate revenues.

Sealaska distributes payments to its almost 21,600 shareholders twice a year. In recent years, they’ve ranged from about $400 to around $1,100.

The money comes from three sources. The largest is a pool of all 12 regional Native corporations’ resource earnings. Another is Sealaska’s permanent fund. The third is profits from the corporation’s businesses.

“Usually there are. This year there isn’t any operating revenue included in the formula,” says Chris McNeil Jr., president and CEO of the Juneau-headquartered corporation.

He won’t say why Sealaska has no revenues to contribute. But he says the information will be in the corporation’s annual report, due out in May.

“I can’t really provide any details on it until we publish. And we’ve done that traditionally to make sure there is no miscommunication about what is being transmitted to shareholders,” he says.

Hear iFriendly audio 

“Sealaska is so opaque. They don’t really share much about their finances,” says Brad Fluetsch, a shareholder who runs a Facebook page highly critical of Sealaska. He’s also founder and managing director of Fortress Investment Management LLC.

He says even the annual reports lack detail. Earnings and losses are reported in sectors, so the reader often can’t tell which individual businesses are making or losing cash.

Still, Fluetsch says Sealaska’s board was honest when it approved a distribution without corporate revenues.

“I’ll give them kudos for that because that did take some effort on their part. Now what they need to do is hire a management team that can make that zero go away and actually turn it into a positive number,” he says.

McNeil is retiring this summer and the search for a replacement is underway.

This spring distribution totals about $12 million. It gives most shareholders $721. But others receive only $57.

The difference is that pool of resource earnings. McNeil says the biggest contributor is the owner of Northwest Alaska’s Red Dog Mine.

“At this point, NANA is the principal distributor. But cumulatively, Arctic Slope has distributed more revenue than any other corporation,” McNeil says.

Sealaska was a major contributor before its timber subsidiary starting running out of trees.

Most shareholders also belong to a smaller, community-based Native corporation.

Those getting the $721 payment also own stock in Juneau and Sitka’s urban Native corporations. Those receiving $57 are shareholders in a village corporation, from Yakutat to Saxman.

“The portion of the funds that go to tribal member shareholders who are enrolled to village corporations goes to the village corporation. And then the corporations board of directors is entitled to decide whether or not some or all of those funds will be distributed directly to their tribal members shareholders or to retain them in the corporation,” McNeil says.

There are several other classes of shareholders.

Those only holding Sealaska stock get the full $721. Descendents of original shareholders receive the lower amount of $57. And elders get an extra $57 on top of whatever else they receive.

All the amounts are based on ownership of 100 shares. That’s the most common number. But some shareholders have more, or different types, of stock due to gifting or inheritance.

Read last year’s annual report.

Sitka’s greenest businesses

Mon, 2014-04-07 10:32

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Michelle Putz with the Sitka Global Warming Group discusses the eight Sitka businesses receiving green business awards – and why they qualify.

Mon Apr 7, 2014

Mon, 2014-04-07 10:21

Listen to iFriendly audio.

The latest issue of “Sitka Trends” shows a rebound in retail sales, unemployment, and personal income, paired with a decrease in the price of housing rentals. Sealaska’s spring distribution to shareholders does not include corporate revenues. The city and borough of Juneau has appealed to the state Supreme Court to reverse a decision on the northern boundary of Petersburg. “Once Upon Alaska” is a new kids photobook by Nick Jans and Mark Kelley.

‘Trends’ report shows economic upswing in Sitka

Mon, 2014-04-07 07:00

SEDA director Garry White is most concerned about “leakage”: the money that leaves Sitka through internet sales or industrial activity that could occur locally. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sitka’s economy is continuing to tick upwards, based on statistical data.

The latest issue of Sitka Trends shows a rebound in retail sales, unemployment, and personal income, paired with a decrease in the price of housing rentals.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Garry White is the director of the the Sitka Economic Development Association, which publishes the Trends newsletter.

Gross retail sales in Sitka jumped $10-million between 2011 and 2012. White is careful about trying to read too much into that statistic.

“I’d attribute it to a couple of different things: The Blue Lake project was just kicking off then, and you’ve got contractors in buying lots of local stuff. And we have other construction projects happening around town. And inflation’s a part of it too. We’ve got increased gas prices, and groceries have gone up some.”

The increase in retail sales has meant an increase in sales taxes collected by local government — $400,000 more went into city coffers in 2013 than in 2011.

Unemployment has also decreased — a full percentage point since 2011. It stands now at 5.1-percent. That’s over two points below the national average.

But the statistic alone doesn’t tell the full story: The Department of Labor reports Sitka’s workforce has also decreased over the past two years — by over thirty employees.

That, plus small bumps in prices, says White, means that things may not be all that great for Sitka’s wage earners, regardless of the overall numbers.

“You look at little jumps and you don’t realize what a percentage that is. For instance, the Sentinel went from $.50 to $.75 — that quarter doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s a 50-percent increase. If you used to buy something for $1 and now it’s a $1.25 at the grocery store, that’s a 25-percent increase. Over a volume, those percentages add up.

Happily, per-capita income is up in Sitka, by over $1,000 from last year. And a bright spot — at least for consumers — is the cost of housing. The market for rentals is down over 8-percent. An efficiency apartment in Sitka now goes for $790, down from $860 last year. And there are corresponding decreases for larger units.

Buying a home in Sitka, remains an expensive proposition, though the average list price for single-family has come down by almost $150,000 over the last two years.

Despite the closure of a couple of key retail locations, Sitkans appear to be spending more disposable income on entertainment venues. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Again, White is reluctant to perform too much analysis on a limited set of data. But, like the rest of us, he can observe things happening in the community that aren’t quantified by government. He talks about a conversation he had recently with city finance director Jay Sweeney.

“What’s the barometer of how the economy is doing in Sitka? Is that the downtown retail stores are flourishing? The fish plants are jam-packed? Is it all the different construction jobs? It’s hard to manage. And one thing that he had brought up was that you can look at these events: Last weekend we had the Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet — sold out. The Roller Derby bout — sold out. A number of different entertainment venues: the Wearable Art show a couple of weeks ago — sold out. So people are going out and spending money with disposable income. Yet we’ve got empty downtown retail shops.”

White says empty stores are a symptom of his biggest economic concern: “leakage.” He says shopping local — and developing local industry — are both critical to keeping more money in Sitka.

Money for The Road? Alaskans weigh in

Mon, 2014-04-07 00:03

The final funding allocation for a proposed road out of Juneau that would effectively connect the capital city to the rest of the state should be known this week.

The revised capital budget bill, SB119, which initially included $35 million for the Juneau Access Project — $5 million in state funds, and $30 million in federal dollars — will likely be revealed early this week.

With less than two weeks left in the regular session and the updated budget not yet public, Alaskans chimed in on the governor’s proposals Thursday and Saturday.

read more

House Resources version of gas-line bill takes shape

Mon, 2014-04-07 00:03

JUNEAU — The House Resources Committee version of a bill to advance a major liquefied natural gas project was starting to take shape Saturday, as members dug into a thick stack of proposed changes.

The committee, with a reputation for finely parsing language, was making slow but steady progress in an amendment process that began Friday. The panel planned to resume work Sunday, after making a slight dent in the stack after hours of meeting Saturday.

read more

Soldotna tobacco shop goes viral in smoking ban debate

Mon, 2014-04-07 00:02

With a smoking ban bill in both the Alaska Senate and House of Representatives, Lucky Raven Tobacco owner Patricia Patterson took a different approach to express her disagreement to lawmakers.

read more

Ketchikan students get a taste of Japan

Mon, 2014-04-07 00:02

KETCHIKAN — The 27-year relationship between Ketchikan and Gero-Kanayama, Japan, continues to hold strong.

Students from Gero and Kanayama middle schools visited Ketchikan during 10 days in March to take part in the annual education exchange. Former Ketchikan resident Tony Hatano-Worrell served as chaperone for the eight students, making this his seventh year serving as chaperone in the program.

read more

Double Rock Band to perform at Alaska Folk Festival

Sun, 2014-04-06 08:00

Double Rock Band practices their set for the Folk Fest in the Sperl living room, April 3. Photo/Angela Denning.

The Alaska Folk Festival in Juneau brings together hundreds of musicians and fans every year to celebrate live music. The musicians come from all over Southeast Alaska and beyond and are of all ages. One of the very youngest groups is from Petersburg–the Double Rock Band–but as Angela Denning reports, although they’re young, they’re not new to the stage.

The Double Rock Band is made up of three Sperl siblings and a friend. The Sperls live on a little family farm about a 20 minute drive south of Petersburg.

When you walk in the front door, three violins are hanging on the wall at eye level. So, not surprisingly, there’s live music coming from within the home. But if you didn’t know better, you might think adults are jamming out…instead of kids ages 11 to 15.

The song that’s playing is about a bear, “Old Slough Foot”, and it’s the band’s favorite to play.

Kelsa Sperl, 15, sings while Erin Pfundt, 14, accompanies her on the bass. Photo/Angela Denning

“That one’s fun,” says Kelsa Sperl, “all of us have a part in it. It’s upbeat and funny.”

At 15, Kelsa is the oldest in the group and kind of the de facto band leader.

“This will be our third time going to Folk Fest,” Kelsa says. “Both with the Fiddle Heads the last two times, so this will be our first time going by ourselves without lots of other people on stage so it’s going to be kind of exciting.”

The Fiddle Heads was another, much larger youth band in Petersburg, which had up to a dozen members.

These four have been playing as Double Rock Band for less than a year, practicing about twice a week. Besides Kelsa, there are her two brothers, Koren who is 13 and Kole who is 11 and they all play with their friend, Erin Pfundt who is 14.

Koren has focused on the guitar since he was six. The other three started out on the violin. Erin has since moved on to the upright bass and Kole, the mandolin.

Kole Sperl, 11, plays mandolin in the Double Rock Band. Photo/Angela Denning

Kole: “I just taught myself the mandolin two years ago I think it was but I started fiddle when I was six and then I started piano a year ago.”
Angela: “So, between the fiddle, the mandolin, and the piano, do you have a specific passion in there or are they all the same to you?”
Kole: “Um, I like the fiddle and mandolin a lot better than piano.”
Angela: “And do you know why that is?”
Kole: “Because they sound better.”

So, with all the musicians under the same roof, where’s the music coming from? I ask their mother, Tausha Sperl.

“You know, we don’t really exactly know where the music’s coming from because it’s not really coming from Donald and I,” Tausha says, laughing.

But these days, the band and the parents agree, they’re pretty committed to music now. Here’s what the band members have to say about why they like to play:

Koren Sperl, 13, plays guitar in Double Rock Band. Photo/Angela Denning

Erin Fundt: “Once you get good enough to play in a band, it gets really easy. Whereas, when I was younger, you have to learn all the songs. Now, though, when I play with the Sperls, I know a lot of the songs so it’s a lot more easy and you can have fun.”
Kelsa Sperl: “It’s nice to hear your instrument make a good sound, once you know how to play it, you know. And then, especially playing with other people and like, my brothers and Erin, it’s cool because we can make so much, like sound, with just four instruments. It’s really fun.
Koren Sperl: “Well, I like it because you can actually make music and it used to be, you know, you just kind of listened to people playing music whether it’s up on stage or in the car or on a CD or something, you know. I guess I always thought when people are playing this music on a CD or whatever that there has to be this big orchestra but just like, I think that maybe Kelsa mentioned that, it’s fun just because even with a little bit of instruments, you know, if you know how to play them you can make things really sound good so I like that.”
Kole Sperl: “Yeah, well, they all kind of took my ideas but one of the things that I like is when I hear a song on the radio or I just remember a song that I heard then I can look it up on a website or something and print out the music and look it up on youtube and listen some more and then I can actually, if it’s an easier song, then I can actually learn it. So that’s really fun to do that. Even if it’s a hard song, then if it doesn’t sound very good with just like plucking then Koren can play the guitar for me while I play it on the mandolin and it sounds really nice like that.”

The Juneau Festival runs April 7-13.

The Double Rock Band plays Friday night at 10:15 p.m.

They will be followed by Petersburg singer songwriter Scott Hursey at 10:45 p.m.

Nicole and Alec McMurren—Mc2 (M-C-squared), also from Petersburg, will perform Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

KRNN in Juneau is audio streaming the entire Folk Fest, and video streaming each evening at

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