Over the past few weeks, a celebration in downtown Anchorage has been continuously raising the spirits of those of us living in the Alaskan city during the long mid-winter. This celebration is known as Fur Rendezvous, or Fur Rondy, or even just Rondy for short. This year, Alaskans celebrated the 77th Rondy, pinning the start of the celebrations back in 1935.
The Rondy website gives this brief introduction into the festival that is Fur Rondy:
“The Fur Rondy Festival is a significant part of the history and tradition of Anchorage. In the mid 1930’s, Anchorage was just a small town of about 3,000 people that stretched between Park Strip and Ship Creek. There were no televisions, malls or movie theaters, no video games, iPods or computers, not even an Iditarod! Winters were brutal and stoking fires, shoveling snow, and surviving the elements was the basic daily pastime in those days.
Vern Johnson, the father of the Fur Rendezvous, was a likeable, outgoing Anchorage citizen with a keen understanding of social conditions. He and his friends decided to establish a 3-day Festival to coincide with the time that the miners and trappers came to town with their winter’s yield. It began as a three-day sports tournament on February 15, 16 and 17, 1935 and featured skiing, hockey, basketball, boxing and a children’s sled dog race down Fourth Avenue. Nearly the entire population of Anchorage turned out for the bonfire and torchlight parade.
Since then, the Fur Rendezvous has earned national and international notoriety, and visitors from throughout the world descend on Anchorage every February.”
Since I’ve been off at school during February for the past four years, my family hasn’t done much participating in the festivities. When my brother and I were young we used to go just about every year, but it had been a long time since we had last seen the fireworks, the Running of the Reindeer, or even Canstruction. (Running of the Reindeer is just what it sounds like: it’s basically the Running of the Bulls, but with a Reindeer. Canstruction is something the local state University’s engineering club puts on. Students build sculptures out of canned good and donate profits to charities.) This year Dad and I ventured downtown, picked up some of the necessary Rondy pins, and checked out some of the festivities.
The festival lasted from February 24 – March 4 this year, and with more days to celebrate winter comes more activities to check out. These past few weeks have been kind of nuts around the house (I’m starting to get a spring on Spring Cleaning, but more on that later. Maybe.) so Dad and I were only able to catch the tail end of what there is to see at Rondy. There were two main events that I recall/recognize from pictures of when I was younger that I wanted to see this year – The Snow Sculptures and The Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod.
So guess what I’m sharing first?!
For the Snow Sculpture Competition, each team or person is provided with an 8ftx8ftx8ft block of compacted snow out of which they create some incredible things. Those who are winners for Division 1 (aka a team of three, 21+ years of age) get to compete at US Nationals for Alaska. Here’s a brief glimpse of what the sculptures looked like this year, along with the title and sculptor’s/team’s name.
*Side note: It’s difficult to get good pictures of snow sculptures because of the bright white of the snow, but it was even harder to do so on a grey skied day (it was cloudy, no matter how blue the sky may look in some pictures), so with editing some of the pictures do actually look like snow, others maybe not so much. But it is indeed all snow. Have I mentioned how much snow we’ve gotten this winter? Over 120 inches of snow. There was plenty for these masterpieces. Anyway, on to the pictures!
There will be a few more posts on winter-time activities up here in Alaska, including more Rondy and some information on the incredible journey that is the Iditarod. Keep on coming back for more!