February 15th 1935, 24 years before Alaska was even a state, Anchorage local Vern Johnson started the first ever Anchorage Fur Rendezvous! Miners and trappers were already in town awakening from the hibernation months of December and January with the hopes of restocking supplies and selling some of their recent harvest. Only three days long, the original Fur Rondy hosted hockey, basketball, skiing, boxing and children’s sled dog races, and not much else.
The event has grown over the last 84 years and people have come to expect a grand time during this traditional Alaskan celebration. I remember Rondys of the past — the festival used to last three whole weeks and we got a day off from school just to enjoy the festivities. My mom would bundle us all up in our snow gear and we would trudge off to downtown Anchorage to ride the Ferris wheel, eat elephant ears, and watch super cool events. I remember the party kicking off with the amazing fireworks extravaganza! Some of my favorite classic events as a kid were the Grand Prix Auto Race, World Championship Sled Dog Races, the blanket toss, snowshoe softball, the amazing Rondy Grand Parade, and one not to be missed — the snow sculptures.
The festival was shortened from three weeks to ten days in 2008 due to budget constraints. We don’t have the Grand Prix anymore, but we still race sled dogs down 4th Avenue and slam beers at every base during snowshoe softball. Another popular event is the Miners and Trappers Ball, with a beard contest and many costumes made from blue tarps, duct tape and Carhartts. The outhouse races are always a highlight, and of course the new favorite is the Running of the Reindeer. A bunch of Rondy participants dress in costumes and brave running with a pack of horned reindeer. I always wonder if the reindeer are infuriated by the hotdog stands lining the street, selling famous reindeer dogs. Another new tradition is Anchorage Brewing Company’s Rondy Brew. This year it is a delicious NEIPA brewed with 100% Strata hops, which taste like passion fruit!
Real Art is Better is strategically located in the 4th Avenue Marketplace, across the street from Rondy Headquarters, in the NW corner of the building. We clean it up and convert it to a small retail space for the weekend. There is also a craft fair inside the building. I invite you to stop in and check out my newest work and take in the view of the Rondy Carnival from our amazing Inlet view window. We’ll be open Saturday and Sunday, 11am – 6pm. I have several new art cards never before released, and many new paintings. I bake cookies for the event and there are great snacks to be found at the craft fair. The studio is a great place to warm up after watching the mushers, or making the trek down the hill to 2nd Avenue to see the snow sculptures. The blanket toss and fur auction are right across the street in the 3rd Avenue parking lot.
If you are getting fed up with Alaska style cabin fever, Rondy is the remedy. This is the biggest social event of the winter! Celebrate the end of hibernation season and get ready to PARTY! Dust off those styling furs and show off Anchorage style!