Footrace, carnival rides and sprint mushing keep each day exciting
After 77 years of entertaining Alaskans and visitors in the middle of a typically dreary season, Anchorage’s Fur Rendezvous is gearing up for its most spectacular 2013 festival yet, running Feb. 22 to March 3. Rest assured, parents, Fur Rondy has a little something for every age and interest, be it figure skating or dog mushing, indoors or out, and we’re excited to join the party.
We love Fur Rondy, with its carnival and uniquely Alaskan events designed to bust the winter blues. It takes a special kind of person to wear a box decorated like an airplane and run two miles in below-zero temperatures, or play softball strapped into a pair of clunky snowshoes, yet thousands of hardy Alaskans do, returning year after year for winter-busting, Fur Rendezvous feeling. This 10-day winter celebration seems to capture the infectious spirit of Far North residents, setting it apart from any other carnival around.
Started by a few Anchorage businessmen in 1935, the inaugural Fur Rondezvous featured a baseball game, boys’ sled-dog race and a community bonfire. Things quickly heated up when other events, like sprint mushing, a fur-and-hide auction, and a popular auto race joined the weeklong celebration. The schedule has been adapting ever since, but some of those mainstays remain popular and have endured.
The festival officially opens on Friday, Feb. 22, but things kick into high gear the next day, with the ever-popular Frostbite Footrace. Most participants dress up for this costume-judged event, paying particular attention to the year’s theme, which has yet to be announced this year. The 2.5- and 5K races begin at 9:30 a.m. looping around the city blocks of downtown Anchorage, with all-comers enjoying the Grand Parade immediately following a raucous finish at Glacier BrewHouse.
Kids of all ages will savor rides as traditional as any state fair sees including the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel and Gravitron in spite of the cold temperatures. Do note, however, that frosty weather means metal handles, doors, and seats on carnival rides will be on the chilly side, so dress kids in their wintertime warmest. The carnival runs the entire 10 days of Fur Rondy, so plenty of opportunities exist for spinning and soaring in between other activities.
Canine athletes take over downtown roadways around Fourth Avenue, and onto the trail systems of Anchorage during the World Championship Sled Dog Races, sprinter versions of the long-distance Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that begins the first weekend in March. Sprint races are just that, and many a photo finish has occurred between two teams of panting dogs and excited mushers as they race along downtown city streets. Our favorite spots to view races include the finish along Fourth Avenue, and the Chester Creek trail system near Cordova and C streets, just south of downtown.
Anxious for the latest Fur Rendezvous information? The organization’s website (www.furrondy.net) provides up-to-date schedule information in a convenient format, and the Fur Rondy Headquarters on Fourth Avenue is a great place to grab a cup of coffee, visit with local festival legends, and cheer on the entire cast of winter festival characters.