Celebrating 84 years of Alaska life, the 2019 Fur Rendezvous festival kicks off Friday, February 22 in downtown Anchorage. Rated one of the top winter festivals in the United States, “Fur Rondy” as we Alaskans call it, is more than a chance to brush off the February blues; it’s an opportunity to revel in life up here.
The brilliant idea of Vern Johnson, Fur Rendezvous began in 1935 as a way for the 3,000 people then living in the community of Anchorage to recognize the many miners and trappers who showed up about now with their winter’s yield of furs, hides, horns, and gold. And, because Alaskans have always loved a good party, Johnson and his friends decided to make a real hootenanny out of the week, with a bonfire, skiing, hockey, basketball, a children’s sled dog race, and even boxing matches. Nearly a century later, Fur Rondy is a staple of February for those of us who live here, and those who have discovered it’s a great time to visit.
Events like Fur Rendezvous matter, not only for the sheer delight it brings to kids of all ages, but for the deep Alaska roots it provides. If you’ve ever wondered how Alaskans live, day after dark day, those months between September and April, attending Fur Rondy is a great way to bear witness.
So what should families aim for during Fur Rendezvous week? There’s certainly plenty to see and do, but the full schedule is enormous and can be overwhelming for first-timers. Dust off your bunny boots and fur hat with me, and try this list:
Fur Rendezvous dates: Friday, February 22, 2019 through Sunday, March 3, 2019
Location: Throughout Anchorage, but the core of Fur Rondy is downtown between 1st and 10th Avenues
Cost: Varying, depending upon events, but many are free and open to anyone
Information: FurRondy.net is the place to go for everything.
*Note: Fur Rendezvous is not affiliated with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which gets ramped up the same week and hosts a Ceremonial Start on Saturday, March 2 in downtown Anchorage. That said, Iditarod is a perfect crescendo to a week of festival-going and an excellent look at Alaska’s state sport, and the canine/human teams who make it happen 1,000 miles to Nome.
SNOW SCULPTURES: Check out these 8 X 8 X 8 blocks of snow along Ship Creek on 1st Avenue, as teams compete to create the most amazing designs. Judging happens on Sunday, 2/24.
FROSTBITE FOOTRACE: Saturday, 2/23 at 9:30 a.m. You’ll want to run, walk, roll, or whatever you do to complete the costume run or 5k race. Not interested in competing? Oh my, you must gather along 5th and 6th Avenues to watch the spectacle, but also because…
FUR RONDY GRAND PARADE: …the parade immediately follows the footrace. Get a good seat and enjoy watching the community come together for a fun afternoon.
MINORS AND NAPPERS: A kid-friendly fun afternoon at the Anchorage Museum on Saturday, 2/23 from 1-4 p.m., and a great way to warm up after watching the parade.
ALASKA RAILROAD RONDY EXPRESS: This is the first time the AKRR has offered a special event train for Fur Rendezvous, and you’ll want to get tickets as soon as possible. Two departure times, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The ride lasts about 2 hours total, and will have music, crafts, and lots of railway fun.
BLANKET TOSS: This traditional Native Alaska game is something to see in person, as individuals are “tossed” into the air from a “blanket” usually made of hides. It originally was used as a way for hunters to see toward the horizon, and people can get quite high in the air. 2/23, 4-5:30 p.m.
RONDY FIREWORKS EXTRAVAGANZA: Saturday 2/23, 6:55 p.m. Look toward Ship Creek and the Small Boat Harbor for the fireworks (for those visitors – we don’t do July 4 fireworks much in Alaska; it’s too light out).
HIDE AND HORN AUCTION: Regardless of your opinion about hunting and trapping, the Fur Rendezvous Festival would not exist without this event, and it is fascinating to see the diversity of furs, hides, and horns and antlers at this legacy event. 2/23 and 3/2, afternoons.
OPEN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SLED DOG RACES: Held Friday, 2/22 through Sunday, 2/24 over a 25-mile loop of Anchorage, these are sprint sled dog races, and are a blast to watch. Starting at 4th and D Streets downtown, teams whoop it up all the way out to Campbell Airstrip (11+ miles) and back again. Good vantage points are along 4th Avenue, 15th and Cordova Streets, Seward Highway and 20th Street, Goose Lake, Ambassador Drive (near Alaska Native Medical Center campus), and along Campbell Airstrip. It’s fast and fun.
CHARLOTTE JENSEN NATIVE ARTS MARKET: Alaska’s Native artisans line the Dimond Center Mall 2/27 – 3/3 with their wares. Everything from intricate beading to scrimshaw can be found, and it’s a wonderful way to introduce children to the traditional crafts of these talented people.
FAMILY SKATE: Grab some skates and head to Westchester Lagoon on 3/3 from 1-4 p.m. for a family fun afternoon. Have some cocoa and stay warm around the burn barrel, too.
RUN WITH THE CRITTERS: Sort of like the popular Running With the Reindeer event, but for littles. 3/2 at 3 p.m.
FUR RENDEZVOUS CARNIVAL: Perhaps the most unique part of the festival is the carnival, set up each winter by Golden Wheel Amusements and a popular place for the community to convene during Rondy week. The carnival opens 2/22 and runs through 3/3; 2-for-1 Tuesday is 2/26; Military Appreciation Day is 2/28 (50% off a Super Saver ticket sheet). Hours vary.
ALL events can be accessed HERE.
Let’s get ready to Rondy!