In Alaska it’s about surviving winter—a long, long winter. Fortunately, people in Anchorage have not only a frontier spirit but a sense of humor. And so there is Fur Rendezvous, affectionately called the "Fur Rondy" by locals, now in its 75th year and serving up 10 days of crazy winter fun from Feb. 26 - Mar. 6.
The festival leads up to the start of the more serious Iditarod dog sled race, which kicks off March 7 (and runs a 1,200-mile course to Nome).
Racing is part of the action during Fur Rondy too, in the form of the World Championship Sled Dog Races, with 30 mushers and their teams competing for an $80,000 purse, on a 25-mile course. But that’s about as competitive as Fur Rondy gets.
Other festival events, as I witnessed for the first few days, range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including whacky snowshoe softball (competitors fall a lot), a Frostbite Footrace (costumes optional) and the World’s Largest Outhouse Race (yup, teams competing pushing outhouses).
It was amusing watching Native American blanket toss, with people lifted into the air on a skin blanket, an event held near the carnival—because even though it was 10 degrees at times during my visit, the festival includes a Ferris wheel and other outdoor rides.
Fur Rondy’s popular Reindeer Run is an Alaskan version of Pamplona, and draws crowds. Thousands were out too for the 6:45 p.m. fireworks—Anchorage is dark by then, in winter.
Much of the action takes place on main downtown Anchorage streets, where there are a couple of 20-story skyscrapers and offerings like a Nordstrom’s and Starbucks. Some of those streets were purposely left unplowed in a half-foot snowfall, so, for instance, mushers could race through on their trek. Try that in New York.
Guest blogger Fran Golden, a frequent contributor to TravelandLeisure.com, is also co-author of Frommer’s Alaska Cruises & Ports of Call.