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Fur Plus Ice Equals Ferocious Fashion

The event is the brainchild of Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski

Margaret Friedenauer / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / March 14, 2005

The scene in the back room of the food shop at Ice Alaska was like an Alaska version of supermodel Tyra Banks' TV show "America's Next Top Model."

Alaska furriers were hurriedly dressing and primping their models in a cramped and frantic space, making sure Ms. Alaska 2005 Aleah Scheick's pearl fox jacket and sportscaster Charlie Sokatis' beaver bomber jacket were just right. The fur-clad models were the feature of the first Fur & Ice Outdoor Fur Fashion show Sunday at the World Ice Art Championships.

The event is the brainchild of Gov. Frank Murkowski. The governor and first lady Nancy were on hand Sunday to christen the event, declaring it "our state's newest and most exciting winter tourism event."

The governor said he decided during his visit to the Ice Park last year that he wanted to find some way the state could help promote the event and its international flavor to propel Fairbanks into a premier winter destination.

"We can't tell you how thrilled we are to see the international mode of this event," he said.

Murkowski introduced representatives from China Airlines, Korean Broadcasting System, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Consul General of Canada and model for a day Jeffrey Parker and state tourism officials.

Emcee Jack Frost, wearing a large fur parka, lamented the warm weather that hovered near 35 degrees. Frost described some effects fur can have on the wearer.

"As I walk around the grounds in this thing, I get an overwhelming desire to chase a ground squirrel," Frost joked.

Frost introduced models strutting the ice-sculpted outdoor runway who were dressed in furs from David Green Master Furriers, The Fur Factory, Red Fox Fine Furs, Suz Custom Furrier and Whitestone Furs Alaska.

Aleah Scheick, Chelsea Paskvan and Shelia Bratten, all pageant winners, worked the runway like pros, modeling fur muffs, scarfs and mink coats. Parker strutted the runway in a three-quarter-length mink coat with a double fur hood and turn back cuffs. The audience erupted in laughter when he put on a wolverine hat, the animal's head intact.

"The consul general is a ham," Frost said.

Chris von Imhof, general manager for Alyeska Resort, was equally amused by his signature David Green fur parka in muskrat backs, wolf and wolverine muff and tassels, and badger and calfskin cuffs.

"I feel like a real wild animal ... grrr," he said walking the runway after commandeering the microphone from Frost.

The women's coats and accessories drew the most response from the crowd. Oohs and ahs went up as Junior Miss Alaska Paskvan modeled a rabbit jacket with matching pillbox combination hat, scarf and purse made of rabbit fur rosettes.

"Ooh, I like that," one audience member said. "It looks like little cinnamon buns."

Many in the audience were wearing their own fur wear, despite the warmth. One woman noted to her companion how she has lived in Fairbanks 20 years and never seen a fur fashion show.

Organizers hope it won't be the last. Margy Johnson of the governor's office in Anchorage said Murkowski wants the Fur & Ice event to develop into an international kickoff for the Ice Art Championships.

After the show, the governor and first lady hosted a reception complete with a chocolate fondue fountain, sushi hors d'oeuvres and, of course, an ice sculpture. Furriers were also set up at the reception to display their wares.

Suz Kisken of Suz Custom Furrier said she was thrilled by the show. She was asked to participate in the event by a phone call around Christmas.

"It got me out of bed," she said. "They said, 'Come down the governor's office,' and I went."

Kisken said the show was great exposure and a fun way to showcase some of her creations.

"It was a real kick," she said as visitors began swarming her display.

Organizers were satisfied with the event, as well. Melissa Stepovich of the governor's office in Juneau said the event went off without a hitch. That is until von Imhof, Scheick and Bratten stayed on stage after the event, dancing to "YMCA" blaring over the speakers.

"It's always the stuff that's not scripted that's the best," she said.

Staff writer Margaret Friedenauer can be reached at 459-7572 or mfriedenauer@newsminer.com
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