I remember attending Fur Rendezvous as a little kid, when the temperature dropped to -20°F and my little sister and I begged Dad to let us go on all the carnival rides. "Go on, sweetie," Mom would coax him. "Give them a few tickets for the swings." He sighed and stuffed mitten-hands into too-small coat pockets and produce a handful of carnival tickets, and then tore off enough to appease the gate guardian of the Swing Around. Sis and I scuttled off into the pen constructed around the ride area (the boundary was just there to prevent bystanders from being kicked in the jaw by ride participants as they swooped around the fair grounds) and waited patiently for the guardian to check our seat belts. And then:
The kind too special to speak freely about, for fear of tainting the experience of memory. The kind lost on adults, because we know too much after all these years. But it was magic then, and it always will be.
Back then, Ally and I were bundled up like little neon marshmallows (this was the 80s, after all, and fluorescent colors were still in vogue), and after each park ride we'd shiver our brains out until something else caught our eye: Shooting gallery! Ferris wheel! Funnel cake! Our eyes would have watered from the wind on the swings, but by the end of the ride they were just icicles frozen to our cheeks. Cold weather has never once deterred a child's determination to have fun, and the example of Fur Rendezvous is paramount to that fact.
This March, though, the weeklong average temperature of Anchorage's Fur Rendezvous oscillated around a balmy 15°F, and my unclad fingers only went numb thrice as I stepped out to snap shots of the many signature Alaskan events. It had changed a lot since my childhood, and I was excited to witness the emergent creativity of new blood in the event organizers.
Fur Rendezvous is a longstanding Alaskan tradition steeped in sourdough roots. It highlights the significance of the previous centuries, when statehood was still a dream and fur trappers & traders were an integral part of the territory's economy. The cornerstone of the festival is the start of the Iditarod, but the week leading up to it is filled with local business pulling out all the stops to celebrate Alaskan hardiness.
In the last five years, Fur Rendezvous has received a huge boost in popularity due to the genius of The Running of the Reindeer, an event that mimics the bravado of the Basques in Pamplona, but with an arctic flare. The Running of the Reindeer isn't the only curiosity, though, in a week rife with local activity and ambition. In the lull between winter and summer months, Fur Rendezvous is as close to the lifeblood of Anchorage as anything else in this vast land.