It's a big weekend for festivals in Anchorage. Fur Rondy was a blast and the dogs of the Iditarod are starting their journey to Nome.
Around the state, communities are hosting festivals and get-togethers as the days get longer and warmer. Here are some of our favorites:
In Juneau, the 44th annual Alaska Folk Festival starts on April 9. This is the biggest "open mic" session in Alaska's capital city. The weeklong event features musicians from around the region, as well as one guest artist. This year, it's Pharis and Jason Romero. The concerts are held downtown in Centennial Hall.
The Stikine River Birding Festival is scheduled for April 26-28 in Wrangell. Thousands of bald eagles arrive early in the spring to feast on the hooligan. But the Stikine River delta, which is accessible from Wrangell by jetboat, is a great place to spy millions of migratory shorebirds. There are speakers, contests and many opportunities to go up the river with local jetboat operators.
In Cordova, the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival is scheduled for May 3-6. There's a selection of community events, speakers on birding and of course the chance to see millions of migratory birds returning to Alaska. You can fly over on Alaska Airlines or Ravn Alaska, take the ferry or sail from Whittier with Major Marine on a special cross-Sound cruise.
The next weekend, May 10-13, is when the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival takes place in Homer. This is the 26th year for this festival, which also features speakers, workshops and lectures. Visitors can spot more than 130 migratory bird species as they make their way back to Alaska.
In northern Alaska, almost every town or village hosts some sort of spring festival. Nancy Neidlinger is a project coordinator at Warbelow's Air Ventures in Fairbanks. She has a calendar on her desk with all of the villages — many of which request extra flights for visitors and families who want to attend the gatherings.
"Up in Fort Yukon during the last week in March, the Spring Carnival features dog races, relays and a banquet. It's a fun way for the whole community to get out and enjoy the light," she said.
Down the Yukon River in Beaver, the springtime celebration is scheduled for the second weekend in April (April 13-15). "This is a fun get-together with dog racing, basketball games, sled pulling, nail-driving and nightly banquets," said Neidlinger. "There's also a bed-and-breakfast in town if you want to spend the night." Call the Beaver Village Council for more information: 628-6126.
The Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel is scheduled for Mar. 16-18. It's sponsored by the Bethel Council on the Arts. The theme this year is "Cauyat Tupagtelarait Nauviput," or "Drums Awaken Our Roots." The festival is scheduled to be held at Bethel High School. Past festivals have featured traditional dancers from all over the state. There's also a big arts and crafts fair.
The Kodiak Crab Festival is a big party on Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-28. Fly over on Alaska Airlines for as little as 5,000 miles each way (you have to book well in advance). Or fly on Ravn Alaska. You also can sail over on the Alaska Marine Highway from Homer.
There are parades, special fly-overs from the nearby Coast Guard base and a survival suit race (on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.). The carnival is set up near the port and ferry terminal and there are many attractions and activities within walking distance, including the Alutiiq Museum, the Baranov House museum and the Kodiak Island Brewing Company!
If you're a beer lover, you may want to head to Haines for the town's Beer Festival May 25-26. About a dozen Alaska brewers will be on hand for you to sample their beers (or cider) at the Alaska State Fairgrounds. This is a 21-and-older event and the organizers stress that no kids or animals are allowed.
The town of Seldovia hosts a popular Independence Day parade. It's smaller than the giant Seward celebration with the Mount Marathon Race, but the whole town comes out to celebrate. There's a slippery fish toss, a 5-K fun run and, yes, a parade. You can take the Seldovia Bay Ferry from Homer.
The spring and early summer is the big festival season around the state. It's a great excuse to explore a new community and make new friends. Do it!