This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.
There’s more to Sterling than a whole lot of people realize.
That’s the message Jacquie Turpin, a member of the Sterling Area Senior Center Inc. board, is hoping to get out this weekend at the center’s first Sterling Street Fair.
“Everything seems to happen in Soldotna,” Turpin said. “All the concerts and everything is in Soldotna. We’re a drive-by or a flyby. (The Sterling Street Fair) is a community thank you. We want something happening in Sterling.”
Turpin said the event is for the entire community, not just people age 50 or older — the minimum age for membership at the Sterling Senior Center. The event is not a fundraiser, and Turpin said she’s just hoping the center breaks even.
“It’s multi-generational, and that’s what we’re encouraging, not just seniors,” Turpin said. “Senior sort of has negative connotations and I think that’s so incorrect in today’s age. I think it’s absolutely true that 60 is the new 50.”
The fair begins Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Senior Center, and will feature a wine and beer garden, food and craft vendors, a sip and paint event and a free concert by Troubadour North and Conway Seavey, who is from Sterling.
“Part of the event is to help bring some of the younger generations into our center so they can see that we’re active, and to kind of prep them for their future and help replace us,” Sandy Bailey, a 15-year board member, said.
Nearly 30 years old, the Sterling Senior Center is no stranger to its community. While it was still looking for a permanent home, the Sterling Area Citizens would host community picnics and barbecues in area parks. Before settling at 34453 Sterling Highway in 1989, the small group took turns meeting in a small log cabin with no plumbing and at a local church. The group formed because residents didn’t feel comfortable driving the 15 or so miles to the Soldotna Senior Center. Today, Turpin said the senior center is serving the seniors in the area with meals and various educational and recreational programs, but she and other members of the board would agree that the center is aiming to do much more than that.
“I have to tell you, this place, I look at it as a haven,” Dee Duvall, a senior center member, said. “I came in and originally walked through that door for WiFi… I got here and it’s so much more than what you expect it to be. It’s not just a senior center. There are cool things happening here. It’s so much more than a senior center.”
Duvall said the center has acted as a hub for the community, but that it could be more.
Looking at the Sterling Senior Center calendar, there’s an event nearly every day of the week, sometimes multiple events.
“We have activities here all the time,” Turpin said. “We really encourage active lifestyles for our seniors.”
Between Zumba class, music jam sessions and card nights, Sterling’s seniors keep themselves busy. Every year they host a Halloween party and make Thanksgiving and Christmas boxes for the youth in the area. Bailey said the Christmas boxes and Angel Tree the center puts together for children in the area have provided gifts for more than a hundred children in the area.
Kristie Bass works in the center’s office. She said they are constantly brainstorming new events, like Italian night, pie auctions, gun shows, garages sales and more to draw people into the center, and into Sterling. She said a number of people drive to Sterling from Soldotna to take part of their card-making and Zumba classes.
With events like the Sterling Street Fair, the center’s members are hoping Sterling becomes less of a drive-by and more of a destination.
“It would be nice if (the Sterling Street Fair) could turn into an annual fair, but we will see how this one goes,” Turpin said.