by Senior Airman Tammie Ramsouer
JBER Public Affairs
7/13/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Since
the birth of the Bear Paw Festival in Eagle River since 1985, Alaskan
service members have been a major part of the annual event.
The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce created the Bear Paw
Festival to celebrate growing businesses in Eagle River and bring the
community together. This year's festival was hosted July 8 through 12.
"We were a small organization when I started volunteering in 1987," said
Suzie Gorski, Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce executive
director. "I inherited my current position two years later and
organizing this wonderful event since."
During the five-day festival, local service members and the Alaska
community participated in many attractions such as carnival rides and
the 5K Bear Paw Classic through downtown Eagle River.
One day during the festival is dedicated as Military Appreciation Day.
"We have this day every year during our festival to honor our military neighbors and friends," Gorski said.
The Joint Base Against Drunk Driving and Drug Abuse Resistance Education
vehicles, a Soldier marching unit from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson,
and the 9th Army Band from Fort Wainwright Alaska participated in this
"The band has played at the Bear Paw Parade for many years," said Army
Warrant Officer Michael Krzmarszick, 9th Army Band commander. "We love
performing for the community. It's an honor for us to provide music and
esprit de corps for the people of Alaska. We always appreciate the open
arms from the Alaskan community, especially Anchorage and Eagle River
has shown us."
Senior Airman Matthew Dunlap, 673d Security Forces Squadron armorer, said this is his first time marching in the parade.
"I think Bear Paw Festival is a great opportunity to get out in the
community," Dunlap said. "As a law enforcement member, it's good to let
the community know that we care about them and want to keep them safe
just as much as the people we protect on base."
The new U.S. Army Alaska commander, Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens, also
participated. This is Owens' first time at Bear Paw, as well as the
beginning of his first tour in the 49th state.
"The community here is incredibly supportive towards the military,"
Owens said. "You can feel it, it's not just words. It's exciting to be
here and in uniform to represent USARAK and participate in the event."
As the organizer of Bear Paw, Gorski said she designs the festival to be
as inviting as possible to the local community and military.
"This festival is the best way for people to feel they are part of their
community by participating in and contributing to [it]," Gorski said.
"The event provides nonprofit organizations an opportunity to raise
The proceeds made from those fundraisers will be donated to different charities around the community.
This is Gorski's last year organizing the Bear Paw, but she said her
career as the executive director has been a fun and great opportunity.
"Alaska is often a stopping place for many people in their journey
through life and the time they spend in this state," Gorski said. "We
want them to feel like it is home during their time here."