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Thousands turn out for Running of the Reindeer

Devin Kelly
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
A costumed competitor runs just ahead of the reindeer at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Spectators watch the events safe behind a fence at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
A barely-clad competitor runs ahead of reindeer at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Competitors wait to start their run at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Abigail Elam tries to put a pair of antlers on her father Sam's head while watching the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
The mountains rise up as competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
McKenzee Peters smiles while watching the events at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
A spectator with foam antlers watches the events at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
The mountains rise up as competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Competitors dressed as Google Maps directions make their way down 5th Avenue after the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
A costumed competitor runs just ahead of the reindeer at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Spectators watch the events safe behind a fence at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
A barely-clad competitor runs ahead of reindeer at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Competitors wait to start their run at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Abigail Elam tries to put a pair of antlers on her father Sam's head while watching the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
The mountains rise up as competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
McKenzee Peters smiles while watching the events at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Reindeer run their way through competitors at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
A spectator with foam antlers watches the events at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Costumed competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
The mountains rise up as competitors make their way down 4th Avenue at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall
Competitors dressed as Google Maps directions make their way down 5th Avenue after the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer.
Philip Hall

Ryan Oot showed up to the Fur Rendezvous Running with the Reindeer event Saturday afternoon in what looked like a pair of red long johns.

"I believe the technical term is 'union suit,' " said Oot. He's a member of the Air Force's 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron and moved to Alaska from New York six months ago.

Minutes later, the 29-year-old charged down Fourth Avenue with other costumed service members and tourists, pursued by a small herd of the antlered animals.

An estimated 3,000 people took part in the seventh annual reindeer run -- a hotly anticipated part of Rondy's closing weekend. The idea originated with KWHL-FM morning show hosts Bob Lester and Mark Colavecchio as an off-kilter, only-in-Alaska version of the famed Pamplona, Spain, bull run.

"Since we couldn't control moose, we figured reindeer were the next best thing," Lester said just before the start of his heat.

The event, which raises money for Toys for Tots, seems to reach a new height in popularity every year. In the hour before 4 p.m., a surge of people gathered behind a roped-off line.

"One of the great ironies of this is we have to herd the people," KWHL DJ Brad Stennett said into a microphone.

On a stage, Jim Varsos, better known as Hobo Jim, churned out one spirited ballad after another, including a song about the run itself.

Organizers divide the run into four heats, or "herds" -- military and tourists, guys, gals and, finally, group entries. Just before each heat, the announcers led the countdown. People screamed and spectators leaned in, holding up cellphones. The reindeer stood calmly in the back with their handlers.

In the men's heat, Andrew Dahlin, a first-time runner, was wearing a unicorn onesie. Why?

"Why not?" he replied. "It's what I had in my closet."

Another guy in a unicorn outfit passed by. "Hey, that's my brother!" joked Dahlin, a 32-year-old software engineer.

"You know the only thing more made up than a unicorn? A narwhal," said Thomas Azzare 32, walking up in a hat with a narwhal horn.

"This is like the pivotal Alaska event you've got to do," Azzare said. A few minutes later, the men were stampeding down the street, with the reindeer bringing up the rear.

Cindy Liming, 54, dressed up as a "Fur Rondy Queen," sporting a fox fur hat, Mardi Gras necklaces and a green dress. Last year, she dressed up as a furrier but opted for a less "over-cumbersome" outfit with warmer temperatures this year.

She has participated in all seven years of the reindeer run, and said that this was the first year it looked like there were more people inside the running area than outside of it.

"It's so much fun. It's Fur Rondy," Liming said.

Around 4:40 p.m., after it was all over, Gerald Erickson and his 25-year-old daughter, Sandra, stood at the end of the street in their Lego costumes. Gerald was dressed as a Superman Lego character; Sandra, a red Lego piece.

Asked how this year's run went, Gerald Erickson smiled.

"We figured out, in six years prior, you just don't run," he said. "You walk the whole thing and enjoy it."

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.

 


By DEVIN KELLY
dkelly@adn.com