Fur Rondy Celebrates Spirit of Winter

Festival offers 10 days of dogs, dancing, reindeer run

Mention Fur Rondy and it conjures up memories of the early 1980s when we’d return from the trapline and converge with other trappers to celebrate surviving another long winter of squalid cabins, harsh temperatures, heavy snows, wind—and always the darkness.

It was safe now to laugh at our misadventures of falling through the ice at 50 below, breaking trail for three weeks straight, running low on food, firewood and fuel for our lanterns.

They came to me and said that they’d like me to be the queen …and I was a bit hesitant because I’m 88.”
Connie Skoglund

For 78 years, organizers of the Fur Rondy have put on a celebration that embodies the spirit of a long winter past and the revival of spring. With more than 100 activities, the Rondy lasts 10 days.

High among favored events is the Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race, which pits the fastest dogs and fastest mushers in three 25-mile runs in three days. Since 1946, top-name mushers from the United States and Canada have made it to the Rondy to race for prizes and the distinction of winning.

“The dog races are always tops,” said Norman Elliott, Rondy’s regent king last year.

Other doggy events through the years have included the Fur Rondy World Championship Weight Pull. Steeped in the Jack London tradition, the event comes with a call for dogs of all sizes to compete for cash and prizes. With four weight divisions, you can enter your own dog in the pull.

The Rondy wouldn’t be the Fur Rondy without the inclusion of the fur auction. Look for this event to bring out the finest in fur. Bring your pocketbook, as prime fox pelts can go for up to $250 while wolves have garnered $450 in the past.

The Miners and Trappers Ball comes with popular themes, such as “Going to the Dogs,” and a costume contest each year. Besides a gourmet dinner, the ball features live music and its annual beard and mustache contest. The winner receives the coveted title of Mr. Fur Face.

The blanket toss, a perennial favorite, propels participants 20 feet into the air. If you loved the rides at the Alaska State Fair in late summer, the Rondy carnival offers the chance to ride them again, but with a wintery backdrop and an exhilarating view of the Port of Anchorage to the north.

Running of the Reindeer is modeled after Pamplona, Spain’s renowned Running of the Bulls, but with typical Alaska flair. This year (2013) marks the event’s sixth year. For those who are not inclined to run with reindeer, the Rondy also offers 2.5- and 5-kilometer footraces, but you’ll want to wear a costume. You can enter singly or as part of a team.

New in 2011 was Yuklgassen, which is German for team snowball fight. Snowshoe softball has been another favorite. While some activities have specified times and dates, the Rondy offers additional venues and displays, such as the Ice Sculpture Competition. Look for the amateur photo contest and other exhibits, too. The Charlotte Jensen Native Arts Market, meanwhile, has been a bountiful source of Native arts and crafts, which include baskets and intricate carvings.

Charlie Ess is North Pacific bureau chief for National Fisherman.

Download the Preliminary Rondy Events Schedule
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