12 Feb Festival Fun: Fur Rondy in Anchorage, Alaska
Every winter the town of Anchorage, Alaska, comes alive with the Fur Rondy Festival. It’s a 10 day event that is held every February, and it’s a whole lot of fun. When we decided to plan a winter trip to Alaska, the dates we picked just happened to coincide with the festival—at first, I almost thought about changing our dates. We often try to stay away from the crowds, but after looking into the Fur Rondy Festival a bit more, we decided that it would be a fun addition to the activities that we had already planned.
The Fur Rondy Festival started way back in the mid-1930’s. At the time, Anchorage was home to around 3,000 people and not much else. Winters were spent just trying to survive, until one of the town’s residents decided they needed to bring a little fun to the long winters. Vern Johnson and a few of his friends decided that they would hold a winter festival that took place when the miners and trappers came through town, and with that, the Fur Fondy Festival was born. Originally, the event was three days long and consisted mainly of sporting events—skiing, hockey, a dog sled race, basketball, boxing, a bonfire and a parade were on the itinerary and almost the entire town turned up for the event. Over the years, the event grew, and it is now an exciting 10 day event that draws both locals and visitors from around the world.
Throughout the 10 days of the festival, you can find a wide range of activities. The list of events is long, and we didn’t even make it to a fraction of the events we wanted to see. Even still, we did manage to stop by nine of the 25+ events on the schedule.
BP Rondy Grand Parade
The first event we made it to was the parade that runs through downtown Anchorage. It is held at 10:30 a.m. on the first Saturday of the festival. It was a great way to start off a day full of events, so we joined the packed streets to cheer on the parade as it made its way through town.
Next up, we watched the outhouse races—yep, you read that right…outhouse races. Teams get creative and build “outhouses” on skis and then race them down Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. In addition to winning the race, contestants win prizes for categories such as best theme, most colorful, cleanest, most realistic and more. It was certainly a fun event to witness!
Open World Championship Sled Dog Races
Another event that took place on the streets of downtown was the sled dog races. The dog sled teams start out on Fourth Avenue and race 25 miles through the streets, forests and major roads around Anchorage. Teams run the 25 mile course three days in a row, for a total of 75 miles, and it is one of the most anticipated sprint races around. We watched several mushing teams take off from the starting point in downtown Anchorage, and it was quite a sight to see!
Next, we made our way over to the Rondy Carnival. The carnival is open every day during the festival and you can find rides, treats and carnival games right in downtown Anchorage. We were planning on hopping in the famous Century Wheel for a spin, but the timing never worked out. Instead, we passed through the carnival grounds a few times and soaked up the excitement and energy around us.
While we didn’t jump on the blanket for a toss of our own, we had fun watching people flying through the air. The blanket toss is an ancient Alaska Native tradition, and it has been a part of the festival since 1950.
Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship
I’m always amazed at the talent of sculptors, and it’s especially fun when the sculptures are made from elements like snow, ice or sand. At the snow sculpture championship, sculptors take 8ft x 8ft x 8ft blocks of compressed snow and carve them into amazing displays.
Hockey & Snowshoe Softball Tournaments
We couldn’t resist stopping by to check out a hockey and a snowshoe softball game. Hockey is always fun to watch, and the snowshoe softball game was hilarious! The snow was deep and watching the teams run and fall over with snowshoes on was quite a show.
AT&T Fireworks Extravaganza
To end the evening, we watched the huge fireworks show over Anchorage. While the show can be seen from all over downtown, we made our way to the top of one of the parking garages and had a great view of the show with the carnival in the foreground.
We were in Anchorage for a week, but with all of the other adventures on our itinerary, we only spent a couple of days at the festival. If we had more time, some of the other events I would have wanted to check out were the Frostbite Footrace & Costume Fun Run, the Native Arts Market, the Running of the Reindeer (like a mild version of the Running of the Bulls), and the Melodrama (a show held at the 49th State Brewing Company Theater). Some of the other events on the calendar are a beer fest, talent competition, the Jim Beam Jam kickoff party, a figure skating show named Rondy on Ice, a fat tire bike ride through the streets called Big Fat Ride, cornhole championships, root beer float chugging contest, and even the “Mr. Fur Face” Alaska State Championship Beard & Mustache Competition.
There are several hotels in downtown Anchorage that are walking distance from many of the events, so if you want to be close to the action, a downtown hotel would be best. We rented a car and stayed in an Airbnb in the Seward neighborhood, so we had about a 5-10 minute drive to get downtown. There are several parking lots near the festival activities if you can’t find street parking, but we managed to find street parking the entire week, some was paid metered parking and some wasn’t.
We had so much fun experiencing the festivities that Fur Rondy has to offer, and we were so glad we were in town during the event. No matter which events you decide to attend, you are sure to have a great time during the 10 day Fur Rondy Festival!