The 2013 Fur Rendezvous Festival kicked off Friday morning in Anchorage. Events at this year's festival, the 77th annual, include all the staple activities, from the Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Races to the Running of the Reindeer.
Fur Rondy began in Anchorage in the mid-1930s, when about 3,000 residents lived in the stretch from the Park Strip to Ship Creek. It also predates the event that has become its unofficial capstone, the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which this year is set for March 2. Fur Rondy 2013 lasts through Sunday, March 3.
An amateur photo contest set Alaska's biggest winter festival in motion on Friday morning. The first day of events will end with the official kick-off party, the "Jim Beam Jam" in the evening at the Egan Center, an event strictly for Alaskans of drinking age. The organizers are promising appetizers and a fresh mix of spirits from around the world. Tickets are available online until three hours before the event, but any leftover tickets will be available at the door.
The events continue Saturday, starting with Yukigassen, a competitive hybrid of capture the flag, paintball and snowball fighting. The Alaska Aces, Anchorage's own professional hockey team, kick off their slate of Rondy games. Devotees of D-I-Y will plaster and pound together makeshift outhouses for the Fur Rondy Outhouse Races. The competitors vie for trophies and cash for top finish in four race divisions, as well prizes in categories like cleanest, most realistic, best engineered, most colorful, and people's choice. And the Anchorage Museum will host a showcase of Anchorage's worldwide spectrum of cultural diversity. Rondy on Ice returns later that day with ice skaters interpreting popular board games like Clue, Twister and Battleship. A big air snowboarding demo followed by a fireworks display will cap the festival's second night.
To keep the momentum going between the weekends, weekday events include the Rondy Carnival, with rides and games come rain or snow, a blanket toss and a snow sculpture competition. The sculpture competition's division 1 winners -- teams of three whose contestants are 21 or older -- will go to the US Nationals to represent the state. Last year's winning team was the aptly named "3 Dudes from Alaska." Their sculpture, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," depicted a polar bear playing a baby grand piano.
Alaska Dispatch's calendar will be tracking the daily events throughout the week-long festival. Downtown Anchorage will be bustling and some roads will be closed, so plan ahead.