Monday, March 1, 2010

You Can Find the Fur Rendezvous Here

My hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, is the place to be to enjoy the one and only Fur Rendezvous.  Actually, I'm not entirely sure that it's the ONLY gathering of this type, but I'm guessing, due to lawyers and all, it's the only one officially called "Fur Rendezvous."  

For those that don't speak Athabascan (or is it French?), it's a yearly tradition started in 1935, where Alaskans gather to swap furs, race dogs, and play hockey.  Apparently the name is just too intimidating to pronounce and so it is affectionately referred to as "Fur Rondy" or just "Rondy."  I remember attending Rondy during my childhood and it was always a much anticipated time of year, especially the parade.  Is there a kid in this world who doesn't love a parade? 

Apparently the answer is "yes."  This little guy was even in the parade and couldn't deal with it.

The only thing I saw more of than fur on Saturday, was portable toilets.  This homemade specimen was delightful.

Built-in air conditioning.
Iceworm, and on the lower left, in black, a rondy" keystone kop".  I used to be terrified they would put me in the jail-on-wheels when I was a kid.  If you are not wearing a rondy pin, you get tossed in jail.  This year, I told them to throw me in jail, I wasn't able to buy a pin. Unfortunately, the jail had gone around the corner by then and the rondy kops said I missed my chance.  Drat!

I remember the jail being bigger and full of surly old folks.  Perhaps too many children had fits and they had to fill the jail with cheerful teenaged attendants, seen above.  Keystone kop pictured at lower right.  Menacing, aren't they?

We've modernized a bit, judging from this year's schedule, (which can be found at the Anchorage Daily News website) and now have outhouse races, bingo, and snowshoe softball.  And lest I forget a new and popular event, "Running with the Reindeer": the cold north's version of the bull running in Pamplona.  No one, so far as I've heard, has been gored or stomped, but I think people have slid in the poo and fallen.

 Nowhere else on earth will you see fur displayed in such quantity outside of a zoo.  Davy Crockett's raccoon tail hat has nothing on the fur hats you'll see here.  I saw a gentleman wearing a wolfskin hat complete with a wolf head on the front.  Very eye-catching.  (A brand new sighting for me this year: seal skin gloves.)  And the annual hide and horn auction brings out all types of folks to bid on animal hides seized by the Alaska Fish and Game department, often from illegal hunts or animals killed in defense of life or property.  I stopped by last year and it was a kaleidoscope of almost every fur bearing animal I have ever seen in Alaska.  I don't think I saw any squirrels, but I could be wrong.  Lynx, bears of multiple colors, rabbits, wolves, foxes, etc.  That's just one auction.  The downtown merchants were out in force with fur hats, coats, and in one shop that's hard to miss: a fur bikini (I wonder just how one would launder a fur bathing suit?).

I guess no one has figured out how to clean this bikini.  It's still for sale....

One event I always try to attend is the Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Races.  A part of downtown is blocked off to vehicles and the streets are covered in snow for the race.  (Also, the weather usually cooperates by being bitterly cold, say under 20 degrees F, and windy.)  I have never seen happier dogs in my life than the dogs in harness waiting to start their run.  The teams I saw on Saturday were bursting with energy and found it hard to wait for their musher to give them the "go" signal.  Second in happiness to the dogs were the kids wandering around pointing out every dog team, dog, and fur hat to their parents.  Nothing quite says "Alaska" like a sled dog race.  At least I'm pretty sure it doesn't say "California" or "Florida."  I remember getting to ride in a dogsled one year as a child (dogsled rides are offered, but not usually by racers) and wondering why the musher brought his rifle.  I imagined wolves tearing us apart or some such scenario.  "Moose," he said, "I bring the gun for moose.  Sometimes they get tangled up in the harness and can stomp or kill the dogs."  It's a moose eat dog world up here.

Is it time to go yet?

Ground zero for the race.  The starting line.  Teams start at staggered times and race through part of downtown Anchorage, thrilling children and adults alike.

Rondy events I would like to try before I die: the blanket toss, in which a person gets tossed around but mostly up in the air by people holding the giant blanket (which looks pretty fun and kind of scary), the outhouse races, where you drag your own outhouse creation down the street as fast as you can, and ice bowling, which I hope is self explanatory....

A city moose.  More colorful than its rural cousin.

Other places and climates have such things as watermelon, chile pepper, or cheese festivals.  We have a festival of fur.  So what if I lost the feeling in my right foot, fingertips and left big toe?  At least I was dressed for the weather.  I just felt bad for those out-of-towners like the CNN crew, who were under-dressed in wool belted dress jackets and flannel.  Brrr.  All this hoopla because Alaskans are itching for spring and it's just not here yet.

Mush on!
Miniature hot rods on parade.

What festivals do you enjoy in your neck of the woods?


  1. Very interesting photos. I don't know whether to laugh at that bikini or pray it never sees a beach. But I know people can be a bit extravagant so if I ever see someone wearing that ANYWHERE I will be sure to take a photo (like a paparazzi lol) and share on this blog. I can't imagine the thing being too flattering though

  2. Dear Christine, What a very jolly romp through the 'Rondy'! In truth, I have never seen, or known about, anything quite like this and reading your commentary and looking at the pictures it seems to me to be enormous fun. I am not sure that I should put myself up to being thrown about in a blanket but watching the huskies run is quite another thing.

    Sadly, I am only able to wear my fur coat in Budapest; in London it would be ripped from my back by animal rights supporters and most likely tossed into the Thames.

  3. Hi Christine. It looks like a fun time. It is good to keep up traditions. That bikini is something but no so warm even if it is fur. LOL!

  4. Hi Christine- It sounds like a "good time was had by all" Great pictures! Our ice is melting then at night it refreezes. We don't have a winter parade, so I got out with my shovel and started breaking up the ice so the melt could run down the street, into the drains and down to the creek. Waters got to do what waters got to do. A couple of drivers paraded by and gave me the smile, but the best was a neighbor going down the street in his loader. He tooted his horn, motioned me over and gave my work area a little scoop. Every bit helps. What we won't do to be in the sun. Happy almost spring! G

  5. @Edith Hope
    So sorry to hear about your coat situation, Edith. Alaska is still pretty loco-free as far as the animal rights extremists. In our state there are still many people that live off of the land, literally, by hunting, fishing, trapping, and farming because the nearest grocery store is hundreds of miles away. Also, quite a few people pack heat up here, so coat rippers probably wouldn't survive to "rip" again another day;)


  6. Love your blog -- I just discovered it (from Joene's site) and read thru some old posts. I like your gardening wit and wisdom! We were in Anchorage in 2006 (and Tok and Fairbanks) ... I'd love to go back, our stay in your city was great (Tok not so much). It was in June, and the Anchorage gardens were spectacular.

  7. Great pictures Christine! You braved the cold -we wimped out! The picture of the little kid being pulled in the sled was so funny -poor lil' guy! he almost looks like a seal! And I had to look twice at those two dogs... thought they were doing something else :o)

  8. I had to smile at your happy sled dog comment. My mother, sister and brother used to race Siberian Huskies in races in New England. When we had enough snow in CT, they would practice here. Without snow, they pulled a wheeled sled. Our dogs went crazy the second they spotted a harness or recognized any activity associated with getting ready to head off to race. They do, indeed, love to run. How cool to be able to do so down the main drag in town.

    I;m also glad to see I inadvertantly directed Laurrie to your blog ... again way cool.

  9. fun festival...never seen a fur bikini...

  10. What a fun and interesting celebration. I do love seeing celebrations like this from different parts of the country :^)

  11. The fur bikini is quite the attention-getter. I'm surprised all the girls aren't wearing them. Maybe it's a bit warm for summer at the beach. ;)

    The dog races would definitely be my choice of the attractions at your hometown festival. Those dogs look so lovely, and the can't-hardly-wait excitement of that one you captured on film is fantastic!

  12. Well Christine, as nice as this is, I won't be mentioning it to my PETA daughter. LOL I could relate to your being terrified of going to jail. I had similar fears as a kid when I lived in Hawaii. Lots of folklore. Scary folklore. At least for a kid. Then we grow up and wise up.

    I see you have a tarp of the WEEK. Here I was saving my next installment for my monthly rendition. I sure like how the snow is heaped up like frosting on a cupcake. A rather oblong, pointy cupcake.

    And good luck with your talk at the end of March. I'm impressed.

  13. Hi Christine, what a wonderful parade! The child on the sled is hilarious, just thinking about the photo cracks me up. I thought we only had outhouses in Tennessee! The dogs are gorgeous and the city Moose very fashion forward. :-)

  14. What a great winter get together. In Prince George we have Cold Snap but it takes place indoors. It's several concerts and performances of Canadian indy bands and musicians, in early February. This year, down south in Vancouver, we had athletes from all over the world competing in outdoor events like skiing, skating, bobsleigh and more. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get down there for the party!

  15. @Grace Peterson
    Yes, I have moved to tarp of the week (instead of month) because my tarp photo collection is getting so enormous. Now my family is helping me scout out tarps around town.


  16. YOur comment right now was right on!! Thanks for leaving such a great one!!

  17. I am speechless. Moved north to Atlanta from Galveston Bay. Been freezing ever since.

    Love your parade. It compares to nothing in my known life. Adore new things.........

    Thanks for sharing. Hmm, would any of that wolf fur repel deer in the garden?

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  18. What a fun time that looks like! We have blue grass festivals, an annual ribfest, and such, but I don't make it to them often. I always say I may next year, but don't make it. Larry doesn't like crowds, so the last time I went to ribfest, it was with a friend.

    Then, there's the state fair, which amid much controversy will no longer be in our city, but in one a few hours away. I used to like to go there when I was young, but that's another one I keep thinking I may go to next year, but even knowing this was the last year for it, I didn't make it. It's September, right when I'm just going back to work and trying to keep up with the garden.

    Wow, you must have snow cover regularly in March if they have that festival then! Brr!

  19. Our little city of Helena has several festivals through the year. One involves a rubber ducky race. People buy little yellow rubber ducks and the numbered ducks are let loose on Buck Creek above the falls. The first duck over the falls and to the finish line wins. Funds go to support local charities. We also have had Civil War reenactments, complete with cannon fire, antique car shows, as well as, traditionally an Elvis impersonator and fireworks on the 4th of July. Your rondy looks cold! But also a lot of fun. I think I would enjoy the dog sleds and the ice worm. Thanks for a peek into Alaskan culture. I need that fur bikini!

  20. Surely by 'blanket toss' you must mean 'blue tarpaulin toss'? At least I was given to believe from your blog that they were a vital part of every Alaskan's day.
    I also like the idea of having to cover the road with snow for the dog sledding but I suppose you have a fair bit of spare snow stockpiled in various places around the state.
    And outhouse racing? I can understand a race to an outhouse but to race with the outhouse? I would love to have been there for that brainstorming meeting.
    I love your blog because, and I mean this very politely, everything that happens is so extraordinarily different to everything to which I am accustomed living in this small temperate island.

  21. @James A-S
    Sure, rub salt in my wound..."small temperate island" indeed! (I guess Alaska is a "gigantic, sub-arctic portion of the North American continent.")

    A demerit for not remembering my post on tarps was entitled, "A Man and His Blue Tarp." Emphasis on man. I don't think blue tarps have enough give for a blanket toss, but I will try this out on a lightweight subject and report back.

    As for the outhouses, well, it's cold and there isn't much to do or we are tired of doing it, so yes, people think up bizarre new rituals. A pathetic explanation but it's all I have....


  22. Sorry I had to miss the Fur Rendezvous. Looks like it included so many of my favorite activities:)

    My first time visiting here. I noticed you were from Alaska and thought it would be fun to visit another blog that originates from a cold part of the country.


  23. That was fantastically interesting. I think y'all are such hardy folks with your 20 below weather and such. The Boy Scouts have a trapper's weekend in Kansas which my son and husband travel to in the dead of January where they trade all kinds of stuff. There is fur there too and knives and other fun boy stuff. We have a watermelon festival, a peach festival and many other things in Oklahoma.~~Dee


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