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'Only-in-Alaska' events highlight Fur Rendezvous

  • Author: Mike Dunham
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published February 21, 2013

The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous has been going on for 78 years this winter. I've been here for more than half of them and still haven't made every single attraction in what's called the world's coldest, craziest winter carnival.

Few people can get to everything, but for people with limited schedules, here's a short list of daily suggestions drawn from nearly half a century of Rendezvousing, tilted toward "only-in-Alaska" items. All take place downtown except as noted.

Friday, Feb. 22 (opening day)

• Rondy World Championship Dog Races. This is the classic three-day sled dog marathon that brought mushing into the modern sports scene and still draws competitors from around the world. Thousand-mile races may get more attention nowadays, but few can watch them race. On the other hand, one can easily view the the Rondy race, including at prime spots along Cordova Street, the Tudor Road bike trail overpass and Campbell Airstrip. Starting time is noon Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, Feb. 23

Get up early, put on your fur parka and head downtown.

Start with the Pancake Breakfast at Pioneer Hall, upstairs at 612 F St., from 8 a.m. to noon.

• Frostbite Footrace and Costume Fun Run, 9:30 a.m. A mob of serious and silly participants race or stroll either 5k or 2.5k in a family run that features hilarious get-ups. The elaborate costumes seen at the Ski for Women often make a repeat appearance here. Look also for the guys who run without shirts.

• Grand Parade. This year's theme is cartoons. The merry procession starts at 10:30 a.m. and the weather looks promising (meaning without sub-zero temperatures or gale winds).

• Great Alaskan Bed Races. For those who can't decide whether they want to be active sports participants or mere couch potatoes, here's an activity that combines both. Four-person teams will race their mattresses down a ski slope. Noon at Hilltop Ski Area.

• Fireworks. A spectacular display in the winter night above the Ship Creek Small Boat Harbor. At 6:45 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 24

• Yukigassen. A relatively new Rondy event, this import from Japan pits grownups in armored snowball fights. This is the U.S. Championship, by the way, and the winner can move on to the international rounds. From 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Hilltop Ski Area.

Monday, Feb. 25

• Native Musicale. Native Alaskans from every corner of the state will present gospel music with a Bush sound from 7 to 9 p.m. every night through Friday. It's the 44th year for this free nightly concert, one of the most popular Rondy happenings and the place where everyone goes to meet friends and family from rural Alaska. At Change Point Auditorium, next to the big white sports dome off Raspberry and Minnesota.

Tuesday, Feb. 26

• Ice Skate Races. Kids and adults get to compete in various races at Cuddy Family Midtown Park, 40th Ave. and B St. near Loussac Library. Skating has been part of the Rondy since it began. Registration starts at 5 p.m. and the heats start at 6 p.m. Non-racers can join the fun with casual glides at the skating oval.

Wednesday, Feb. 27

• Charlotte Jensen Native Arts Market. This is the biggest and, in my opinion, the best bazaar of its type in the state. More than 150 Native artists fill the Dimond Center with tables selling dolls, baskets, fur pieces and carvings. The market continues through Sunday.

Thursday, Feb. 28

• "Turnagain Temptations," the 2013 Rondy Melodrama, is presented by the award-winning Alaska Sound Celebration women's chorus at the Snow Goose Theatre. Beautiful music accompanies a ridiculous plot where viewers are encouraged to cheer, boo and throw popcorn. Always fun, especially for those who show up in costume and maybe win prizes. There are several performances, Feb. 22-March 9, but the shows often sell out. Get tickets in advance at or 263-2787.

Friday, March 1

• 4th Annual Utukkuu Snow Golf Challenge. Golf Alaska-style, with three-person teams going for nine holes in the snow. Just to make it interesting, two of the holes will feature challenges in the form of "Inupiaq Cultural Activities" (we're not sure what that means, maybe an ear-pull, maybe skinning a seal before going to the next hole) and a "harpoon hole-in-one" contest. Tee-off is at 9 a.m. at University Lake Park, 4050 Unuiversity Lake Drive.

Saturday, March 2

The ceremonial start of the Iditarod Race at 10 a.m. There's a full schedule of Rondy must-dos today as well.

• Alaska Trapper's Association Fur Auction. This puts the Fur in Rendezvous. Where else can you bid on the wolf pelt of your dreams? From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 3rd Ave. and E St.

• Blanket Toss. Need we say more? Noon to 2 p.m. On Sunday as well.

• Vintage Snowmachine Parade, a procession of lovingly restored iron dogs at 2 p.m.

• 6th Annual Running of the Reindeer. Registration for the fund-raiser is $25 and can be done online at or at the Fur Rondy shop at 4th Ave. and D St. Enjoy a reindeer hotdog while you watch the throng being chased by Santa's rejects.

• Miners and Trappers Charity Ball, at 7:30 p.m. in the Egan Center. Clever costumes -- often spoofing current events -- and the Mr. Fur Face Contest have made this a Rondy highlight for 63 years and counting.

Sunday, March 3

Last day for events that have been going on since Day 1, like the carnival rides on 3rd Ave. and the display of magnificent crafts in the "Artistry in Wood" show at the Northway Mall.

• Ice Bowling. Wind up your 2013 by nailing a strike on the frozen pond at the Peanut Farm, 5227 Old Seward Hwy. Bet you a beer that you can't make that spare.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.


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