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Survival Guide to The Anchorage Fur Rondy Experience

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Unfortunately, Fur Rondy has nothing to do with this:

fabulous furries

These particular “furries” left a large tip at the hotel where their furry convention was held.  “Fur Rondy”, alas, is about dead pelts and 2000 people running with 20 reindeer. Oh also there are many dogs pulling sleds with people on them. It’s a two week season of  sunny spring madness which forces all Anchorage residents to change the way they drive to work as well as to attend at least one officially sanctioned “Fur Rondy Event.” If you don’t wear a Fur Rondy Pin downtown, (where you will find it impossible to drive anyway), a “cop”, usually someone from The Lion’s Club, will falsely imprison you until you buy a button for bail. I have only been arrested in this way once and it was by a friend. It does not go on your record unless you are publicly drinking or smoking pot at the time.

This year I attended several Fur Rondy events which explains my current state of exhaustion. We get 5 minutes more sunshine each day and the sun no longer cruises the horizon but sits about 45 degrees above the edge of the earth bringing us a dose of solar energy similar to a niacin rush. If you have bipolar disorder you may want to take out some trip insurance.

I cross country skied over to Campbell Airstrip to watch dog teams zip by, attended a skating party with  hip hop remixes of all the pop songs of my youth. I crammed our company van onto a skinny path parallel to the Iditarod dog trail to make sure the older and less physically snow- able folks we care for had a chance to take part in the fun. My backing out of the parking space got the most (nervous) laughs.

I’ve blogged about Fur Rondy before. At first I took the event at face value, as a winter carnival.  It’s actually a spring fever/Mardi Gras/Equinox, anti-suicide intervention thing. Fur Rondy screams, “Get out of the house you the people who have chosen to live in unfriendly climes!”  Folks wear over-the- top fur hats and coats because they’re going to have to put them away pretty soon. It’s a time for outhouse races, blanket toss, ice bowling and Duck Tape costume balls.  This is Anchorage at its goofiest and least costly as many events are free or at least free to watch. It’s not cold enough to kill you and there aren’t enough tourists for the locals to want to kill you. Reminder: everyone is carrying a firearm except for you and maybe those Keystone cops.

I tend to stay out too long and have too much fun which means I suffer sunburn in the summer and near hypothermia each winter.  It’s probably safer for someone like me to live in a town that serves wine and cheese at indoor events instead of hot chocolate and cookies by a trash barrel full of flaming logs on an icy wind ridden lagoon. But we all find places we feel at home whether wearing real or fake fur. I keep trying to escape but I just can’t seem to find a weirder place. I do hope there is someone clever enough to schedule a Furry Convention during the Rondy next year. Just think how comfortable your  Fursuits will be!



Marching into winter- Alaska style!

It’s not spring yet, oh Non-Yeti people of the South. I fell on the ice three times in the last two days, twice trying to unplug my car and once ice skating. It’s balaclava weather, a stiff wind with cold, dry undertones of glacier.  And yet, no snow. This is why I keep slipping, not because I am old and clumsy and I have to climb an icy hill to wrap my extension cord around the fence after I unplug my vehicle. It’s the Ice, baby, ice.

In Alaska, this is time for the midwinter festival. We have an outdoor carnival, parade and usually, if we had snow, some dog races. What we had this  year were faux races, kind of like a reality TV show of what is supposed to be a ceremonial start, (read not even real when there is snow!)  Here is a photo from the ceremonial start of The Iditarod in downtown Anchorage this year. It was about 15 degrees F. but felt like 0 because downtown is a wind tunnel. There’s nothing like pink hair and a fuchsia beard to warm things up.

We may not have snow but we have style!

We may not have snow but we have style!

That slushy snow you see was hauled in from the snow dump in town only to be rained upon the night before the race. To see what the downtown streets really look like, here are some scenes  from The Fur Rondy parade the week before.  Let’s start with my all time favorite float – the giant inflatable colon with Mr. Polyp!

Next year I will volunteer to be Mr Polyp!

Next year I will volunteer to be Mr Polyp!

Note that there is no snow or ice on the colon!  Behind the serious health message of Mr. Polyp was a float from a  local business with a similar theme.

Sitting down on the job

Sitting down on the job

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the roughage!

Sad to say, only the white bread was marching. I will boycott until I see brown bread represented

Sad to say, only the white bread was marching. I will boycott until I see brown bread represented

I did find what looked like a marginally local clump of snow off the parade route.

Parking was a little tight downtown but this is just showing off!

Parking was a little tight downtown but this is just showing off

And thus arrives March with a bite of frosted but no flakes, okay perhaps a few human ones. Self included.

AK rocks Fur Rondy!

Fur Rondy is the dorkiest festival around and you should all come up to AK to take part. Except PETA people, May I recommend The Gilroy Garlic Festival instead?

Why do people visit Alaska in the summer when winter is so much cooler and cheaper?  No lines, lots of snow and ice to play with, no pesky mosquitoes, tons of moose cruising around, gigantic scary snowplows attempting to eat up your car parked on the side of the road and  driving is always quite exhilarating. Besides it’s about time everyone in Alaska woke up and hung out together. I spent a couple of hours downtown on Saturday and midtown on Sunday so here’s what I’ve got to show for it.

Fur Rendezvous is a festival/fair which grew out of trappers bringing in their goods at the end of  February to sell in town Maybe this was because the bears start to wake up them, not sure. This is only a small part of the festival today but it still exists.

These guys aren't going to the opera in those coats

It’s freakin’ cold out during Fur Rondy so you may be tempted to buy a coat only you have to get it a piece at a time

These went for $175. each

As in any festival, people watching is prime. I would say the outfits here are better, certainly more functional, than the Oscars but then I’m partial to men attempting to out dress the ladies as in the photo below.

The man on the left has an entire fox head on top of his own, you know what they say...

Right next door to the Fur auction is the midway. There is absolutely no line for any ride. The views are gorgeous but bring a blanket.

Put the blanket over and under you - the metal seats are coooold!

The blanket toss takes place in this same area but you don’t have to provide your own blanket. This is probably the most popular event at Fur Rondy in terms of participation so don’t be disappointed if  you don’t get tossed, they always need tossers.  The blanket toss (as in getting tossed in the air as if to spot seals or caribou on flat land or ice) is like handheld trampoline so it takes a crowd to make it work.

Then there’s the sled dog race. It’s not the longest distance or the shortest. It’s around 90 minutes, kind of like how the winner of the mile race in the Olympics is just as exceptional as the fastest sprinter or marathoner. When I got downtown the officials were going around to each truck to  find out which dogs were definitely running and other last minute details.

Believe it or not, there was sun dog today (rainbow around the sun)

Here's who's on board

Somebody might not be running today 😦

I didn’t think the snow sculptures would be carved yet as it was only the second day of Rondy but I was surprised. My favorite was The Kraken. That’s because it’s scary. Some of the other sculptures were scary but in a religious way. Others were intricate or cute. I’m guessing they might have copied this from a sand sculpture competition somewhere as we don’t have many longships, although we have some cross country skiiers who look a lot like Vikings.

Look out mighty Viking War Ship. You're toast!

I told you there were moose. The exit from the snow sculptures was all backed up because a couple of moose were galloping by and no one wanted to frighten them.

Moose vs car - moose wins. Moose vs Kraken? Not sure.

Last year I wore two pairs of pants and watched the Yukigassen for an hour but this year they moved it out of downtown. Yukigassen is a team snowball fight combined with capture the flag. It was exciting but it costs to get a team together and enter the fray. I purposefully skip the running of the reindeer. Reindeer have been bred to be docile, like cows. They might as well have running with the kittens or running with the chickens. I visited a reindeer farm once and they surround you because they know you have a handful of food. They’ve been conditioned to leave when you put your hands up and show them you have no food left. Running with the moose would be more like  Pamploma and there would be blood, all of it human.

This year, despite my better judgement, I chose to go to the skating oval behind the library and skate race. I dressed for the costume race but also wound up doing the relay. I was in figure skates but happily only about half the folks had speed skates and the ones who were really good were forced to start way back so they wouldn’t lap us. The speed skating club brought hot potato soup, cocoa and lots of encouragement.  The relay almost killed me. I was on a team with Chuck, the organizer. I went out for the first lap then tagged him for the second only he was so fast I hadn’t caught me breath by the time he came by so the other folks told me to wave him by and do the last lap instead. None of the other racers noticed because we were last. My legs were like wood coming around the last curve. Now for good form take a look at this guy who won the 1000 meter race. He and his girlfriend had to start way behind even in the bucket race because they were out of our league.

Look out for the bloody tennis balls!

And then there’s me. I got a guy named Kevin with a Boston accent thicker than mine to take my picture. He raced in hockey skates.

They thought I was a clown, I thought I was a queen

Last photo is my souvenir. There were a couple selling these mittens out of their truck down by the snow sculptures. I have been obsessing over these felted sweater things for a while but they usually cost over $100. These were just $50. Score!

My new mitten says - Goodbye.