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We need Fur Rondy — even if things aren’t exactly normal

  • Author: Heather Rhodes
    | Opinion
  • Updated: March 5
  • Published March 5

Ada Coyle and Walter Savetilik watch the AT&T Fireworks Extravaganza during Fur Rendezvous from the parking garage on W. Fifth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

If I hear “things just look a little different” or “reimagined” one more time — well, nothing, because what are the alternatives? Options are scarce.

We’re isolated right now. But the days are getting longer. And dare I make the anticipated but cliched correlation: Brighter days are ahead.

We need Fur Rondy. Think about the even more extreme isolation nearly 90 years ago, pre-statehood, air transit and shipping, telecommunications technology or even six cylinders.

After months of frigid darkness and separation from humanity with a side of winter angst, we needed something to bring us into the light to check in on each other, spark commerce, commune and commiseration with our neighbors. But most importantly, to celebrate survival. Thus, Fur Rendezvous.

We’re known as a people who endure extreme conditions, then bloom, flourish and celebrate. Celebrations are meant to be together.

Today, we are fortunate that technology, innovation and communication connect us to what matters most through even the darkest of days. But when the light brings longer days, this community comes together to do what it does best: innovate, create, lift up our neighbors and let the show go on.

As a kid I remember the events: mom and dad would drag — or we’d drag them — to camp out on snow berms on the hill over Cordova Avenue watching sled dogs race by. Screaming our voices raw when Dee Dee Jonrowe, Susan Butcher, Libby Riddles or Debbie Moderow came rocketing by, breaking boundaries and norms and inspiring other little Alaska girls.

I recall standing in line at the dog sled track, carnival and hot air balloons, fighting back tears because my feet were painfully cold — but I couldn’t miss my turn in the balloon (they’ve since stopped the balloon rides — too cold, and I wouldn’t think about giving up my place in line to zoom around the racetrack with the puppies, or spin frigidly on the frosty Zipper with frozen cotton candy. It’s an Alaska rite of passage, after all).

Rondy was created for this. This moment in time, this spirit of celebrating resiliency and brighter days ahead is exactly what we need. Call it a silver lining and great timing, but the events of Fur Rondy bring inclusivity to Alaskans, culture, creativity and we all know it tends to get a little wacky at times. And that’s why we love it.

Rondy is full of memories, history and tradition. It began as a way to come together, celebrating our victory over isolation. More than relevant, it’s still a way to come together — celebrating our victory over isolation. Of re-engaging neighbors, communities, businesses and opening back up.

Yes, Rondy looks different this year. Events will likely return to their normal form next year, but this year will give Alaskans plenty of opportunity to support local, boosting our spirits at the same time.

Thank you for all you do to bring our community together. We need everyone’s support to keep Rondy alive and thriving. Brighter days — they are here.

Heather Rhodes is a lifelong Anchorage resident. She supports Fur Rondy through her work at Alaska Communications, a Rondy sponsor, as well as outside of work through volunteerism and as an excited participant each year.

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