Kirsten Swann

Despite cool, overcast weather that brought a dusting of snow to higher elevations, Memorial Day Weekend brought throngs of visitors to Chugiak-Eagle River area campgrounds.

At the 57-campsite Eagle River Campground, just a few spots remained Saturday afternoon. At the Eklutna Lake Campground — which has 50 campsites and 15 overflow spots — every space was full Thursday night. By Friday morning, with a half-dozen people due to leave and more than a dozen lined up to take their places, volunteer ranger’s assistant Lilly Toal flipped the sign along the road leading in: “Full.”

Featuring everything from outdoor field trips to hiking and biking, the annual Eagle River Parks and Recreation summer day camp is about to shift into full gear.

There are still a few spots left.

Held at Birchwood ABC Elementary School, the popular summer camp program takes place in weeklong sessions, from June 5 – August 11. As of May 26, the camp was almost completely full, with just a few spots remaining in weeks five and nine, according to park staff.

“We do take a wait list,” said Karen Richards, Eagle River Parks and Recreation manager.

An Eagle River demolition site alongside the Old Glenn will quickly become home to the area’s newest fast food restaurant.

According to a spokeswoman for Panda Express, the popular Chinese-American chain plans to build its new restaurant at the corner of Schroeder Drive and the Old Glenn Highway, where crews recently began tearing down an existing single-story building.

After years of planning and preparation and more than 1,000 volunteer hours, Mirror Lake’s new mountain bike singletrack is almost ready to ride.

It’s the first trail of its kind in Chugiak-Eagle River.

The course follows a winding three-mile path through the woods between Mirror and Edmonds Lake and includes two-and-a-half miles of narrow new singletrack connected by wider segments of old multiuse trail. Pending the results of a final inspection by the Municipality of Anchorage, it’s expected to open in June.

On May 20, dozens of Alaskans packed the track at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center to take on a common foe.

“Cancer’s all around us, and it shouldn’t be,” said Annette Vrolyk, organizer of the Chugiak-Eagle River Relay for Life.

Born in Russia, raised in Southcentral Alaska, Maria Davydenko now lives in West Africa, where she holds an unlikely distinction: The former Chugiak-Eagle River resident is one of five Alaskans representing the U.S. Foreign Service in Nigeria.

“It’s statistically improbable that all five us are here at the same time, but maybe there’s something about Nigeria that draws Alaskans,” she said, speaking by phone from Lagos May 11.

Along with Davydenko, Alaskans Joel Kopp, Meghan Moore, Michael Carney and Donald Alderman all serve in the West African nation.

This year, summer construction season means new pavement for the Glenn Highway, from Airport Heights to Eklutna.

Crews are currently working to resurface the highway in two phases, according to Shannon McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation. Work between Hiland Road and Eklutna is ongoing, she said. Work on a separate section of highway – from Airport Heights in Anchorage to Hiland Road – is expected to begin in June.

On the evening of his graduation, Birchwood Christian School senior Tyler Thornton arrived early, before the crowds and his classmates, ready to say goodbye to the school he’d attended since sixth grade.

“I kind of don’t want to leave, but I’m ready for new beginnings,” he said Friday night, standing in the dark auditorium at theCrossing church in Birchwood.

This year, the University of Alaska Anchorage’s spring commencement ceremony kicked off with a voice from Eagle River.

Lailani Cook, executive director of the Alaska Fine Arts Academy, performed the National Anthem for a crowd of thousands at the Alaska Airlines Center May 7. With a degree in music education, Cook was one of more than 100 Chugiak-Eagle River residents to graduate with the UAA Class of 2017.

“It feels very surreal,” she said in an interview the week after graduation. “When you start, four years just seems like a long time.”

Approximately 450 Chugiak-Eagle River students received their high school diplomas in back-to-back ceremonies at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage Tuesday, May 16. Some expressed joy, others relief, as smiles and tears filled the arena through the afternoon and into the sun-filled spring evening.

The pomp and circumstance began at 2 p.m., when more than 190 students were set to graduate from Eagle River High School. At 7 p.m., some 260 Chugiak High School seniors followed suit. The graduations included addresses from class officers, honors graduates and invited speakers.