Monday, February 18, 2013

Let's Rondy in 2013

“Let’s Rondy!”
Walking around Anchorage in February of each year, you’ll hear people saying that. What the heck does it mean?

Well, my dear Adventurous Traveler…the Fur Rendezvous Festival is a significant part of the history and tradition of Anchorage! In the mid 1930's, Anchorage was a tiny town of 3,000 that stretched between the Park Strip and Ship Creek. Winters were long, hard and tough. Spirits would dip after the holidays.  Cabin fever would descend.  People got cranky. 

Enter Vern Johnson, the father of Fur Rendezvous.  Vern was a likeable, outgoing Anchorage citizen with a keen understanding of social conditions. To help raise the spirits of Anchorage’s residents and to put the “win” back into winter, he and his friends established a 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. The entire town turned out to “Rondy.”

Over the years, Fur Rendezvous has continued to be something that Anchorage residents look forward to.  It’s also earned national and international notoriety, drawing visitors from throughout the world. 

There are many Fur Rondy events- some old, some new. The Official Rondy Fur Auction has been a staple of the Festival since the beginning and the Festival was named in large part because the fur trade was Alaska's third most valuable industry in those days. The Blanket Toss*, an ancient Native Alaskan tradition, joined the Festival in 1950. Alaskan Native hunters and dancers were flown into Anchorage from Nome and Little Diomede to participate in the Blanket Toss and perform artistic, captivating tribal dances.

The World Championship Sled Dog Race debuted in 1946 and has become the cornerstone event of the Festival bringing teams of sled dogs and mushers to Anchorage from across Alaska and the world. The World Championship Dog Weight Pull began in 1967 as a bet between two dog owners to see whose animal could pull the most weight. Four decades later, dog owners are still competing against each other for the cash, notoriety and the illustrious World Champion title for the event. Other traditional Fur Rondy events include the Rondy Carnival, the Grand Parade, the uniquely Alaskan Original Men's Snowshoe Softball and the Grand Prix Auto Race, one of the oldest street races in North America.  The Frostbite Footrace, Miners and Trappers Charity Ball and the Outhouse Races and many other events  are also not to be missed. 

For a complete schedule of the events, which last from 2/22-3/3/2013, go here,

See you there.  “Let’s Rondy!”

(Official Fur Rondy Website information was used in the writing of this article.)

By Marilyn Kasmar of 11th Avenue B&B, an Innkeeper with the Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association - check the "AABBA" site for accommodations for your Fur Rondy adventure!


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