The "Occupy Town Square" outpost near City Hall was missing from downtown as the 2012 Anchorage Fur Rendezvous rolled along on Saturday. But "Occupy Sesame Street" -- the name of a group entry in the Frostbite Fun Run that featured runners dressed as Elmo, Big Bird and friends -- was on hand. In fact they finished first in the group costume competition.
Other award winners in various categories included a Tarzan guy, Pacman with a Ghost, characters from "The Wizard of Oz" and living Russian "Matuska" nesting dolls.
Some thought that the three runners dressed as whales from the "Big Miracle" movie deserved a mention, but the top Corporate or Organization Group costume prize went to "Because We Care," a set of runners representing local charities.
Parade and firetruck
Temperatures were in the teens, but the sun was bright and there was no wind in the morning, which seemed to bring out the crowds who lined Fifth and Sixth avenues for the run and the Grand Parade that followed. Highlights included the awesome Oshkosh 4500 ladder truck of the airport's aircraft rescue and firefighter unit -- more a like a Navy destroyer on wheels than a firetruck.
Cyclists on fat-tire bikes promoted biking to work. A float of "polyp people" and a giant colon made of balloons promoted colorectal cancer awareness. The great blue Cordova Ice Worm, 100 feet long or more, was animated by at least 40 Anchorage school children. People cheered when the inflatable Statue of Liberty on the Liberty Tax Preparation Service float did a limbo back bend to get under the Fifth Avenue Skywalk at Egan Center.
Rondy goers also flocked Saturday to Hilltop Ski Area in South Anchorage, where Yukigassen teams blasted each other with perfect, round snowballs at one end of the Hilltop base area in the snowball fighting competition's second year at Rondy, and up the hill a ways, costumed racers jumped on plastic-wrapped mattresses for the Great Alaskan Bed Races.
In Yukigassen, teams don hockey helmets with face masks and pummel each other with snowballs in a version of capture the flag. Ducking and weaving, the competitors take cover behind rectangular barricades and hurl the pre-made snowballs. If a player is hit, he's out of the game.
"That's why I came here. If I can just get one guy in the face, it's a good day," said Viktor Baklanov of the Centaurs, who had just lost to the Big Test Icicles.
In the next match, a team sponsored by Lynden Transport battled to a 2-1 victory when Mike Forsythe stole the other team's flag in a wild sprint. Forsythe, who doesn't look much like a sprinter, was winded and might have vomited a little after the match-winning grab.
"I ran out of ammo and just went for it," Forsythe said. "It's a great time. It's been fun. A lot of fun."
The reigning champions, sponsored by Chilkoot Charlie's this year, espoused a strategy of patience.
"We'll just sit back and let 'em come to us. They'll rush it," said Taylor Reed.
"A lot of people, they want to be heroes and grab the flag," said teammate Justin Bode. "We just pick 'em off one at a time."
The strategy seemed to work. The 'Koots team won a battle of attrition as their opponents, Apex, hung back at first, then rushed after several players on each side were knocked out.
"We did exactly what we wanted to. Mission accomplished," Bob Livingston said. "We only get aggressive if we have to. ... That's our key. Don't be dumb."
Bed racers earn battle scars
There appeared to be far less strategy at the other side of Hilltop, where teams raced mattresses down the ski slope, slammed into hay bales and sometimes continued on through one or two layers of fencing.
Less strategy and less clothing too.
There was the Yellow Snow Patrol with yellow capes and yellow underwear over tight, white body suits. Also racing were the Real Housewives of Alaska, "which involves dudes dressed like ladies," the announcer proclaimed. Then there was the team dressed in hospital gowns and scrubs, leaving skin exposed to the harsh snow.
Cara Shelton, a travel nurse from Oklahoma, showed off some scraped skin on her hip.
"Battle scars," Shelton said.
The team had won its first heat, and Bjorn Olson -- wearing a hospital gown, goggles and little else -- shivered as they waited for the next go down the hill.
"We're trying to get a good push start, keep a low profile, be aerodynamic," Olson said. "I ate a big breakfast, you know, more weight."
Native arts on display at Egan Center
The giant Charlotte Jensen Native Arts Market at Dimond Center won't start until Wednesday, but an array of artists had their work on display at tables in the Egan Center during the Inter-Tribal Gathering. That was a one-day event. But those heading downtown for the final day of the Fur Rondy races Sunday may want to take in another large craft show, with lots of tables containing everything from Native art to jellies and live music. It's taking place daily throughout the Rondy in the 4th Avenue Marketplace.
Reach Mike Dunham at email@example.com or 257-4332.