Quirky and compelling events dot the calendar of the largest city in the Frontier State
Looking for cascades of glacial ice crashing into the water, huge salmon surging upstream or the exhilaration of mountaineering on North America’s tallest peak? These iconic Alaska moments and more can be experienced in whole new ways in and around Anchorage, Alaska. But keep room on your calendar for some unusual and quirky events.
Here’s a brief roundup of some of the fun Alaska events:
• Salmon returning to Alaska waters is a big part of summer. The competition for monster king salmon returns to Ship Creek in June. Fish returning to the stream often weigh in at 40 pounds. This derby is popular with anglers of all stripes and has divisions for visitors and kids, not to mention specially tagged fish. You don’t need to reel in the biggest fish to land great prizes.
• The 10-day Slam’n Salm’n Derby is a benefit for the Downtown Soup Kitchen, a community organization assisting Anchorage’s working poor and homeless. Monday through Friday, volunteers serve 500 bowls of soup. They also provide emergency clothing and a place to shower.
• Mount McKinley has inspired and awed artists, explorers, residents and visitors for centuries. And the Anchorage Museum takes visitors to the heights of Alaska mountain ranges with new exhibits. “The High One: Reaching the Top” looks at climbing Denali through historical and modern gear, the mountain’s routes, risks and rescues. “Ascent: 20,320” chronicles the history of man’s exploration of McKinley with photographs taken through the years on loan from the National Park Service archives.
• From quirky to downright crazy, events at Anchorage Fur Rendezvous have contestants and onlookers howling with laughter. The annual celebration, known locally as Rondy, started in the 1930s as a way for hard working miners and trappers to let their hair down after a long season of labor. In the years since, Alaska’s largest winter festival has added more zany events to the roster.
A world-class museum opens its doors to visitors in downtown Anchorage. The Anchorage Museum, the state's largest museum, includes the Alaska History Gallery, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, science exhibits, shop and full-service restaurant.
One of the top 10 most visited attractions in Alaska, the Anchorage Museum is a world-class art, history and science museum. Its collections offer an overview of Alaska’s rich history and an introduction to its varied culture. Displays in the Alaska History Gallery delve into Russian occupation, the gold rush, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and more.
The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center gives visitors a glimpse of the diverse culture of the Alaska Native peoples, while the Imaginarium Discovery Center will ignite the child in everyone with hands-on science exhibits. Free public programs include hourly docent tours during the summer months. The museum also features an award-winning museum shop and full service restaurant specializing in Alaska cuisine.
Learn more by calling 907-929-9200 or visiting the website, www.anchoragemuseum.org
Get Rad during Rondy
The wildest event in the literal sense, Running of the Reindeer, is a sprint down a snowy city street pursued by a herd of reindeer. Think “Pamplona” and you’re getting close, but in this instance the reindeer spectacle is less aggressive. In fact, participants get to pet their cloven competition prior to the race. Contestants don far-out costumes and dash the distance with the tawny team of ungulates. The event remains one of the highlights of the winter festival.
In frontier days, an outhouse was a necessity for life. During Rondy, it transforms into a speed machine. The extremely popular Rondy Outhouse Races pit custom-built privies against one another in a ski-borne drag race. Teams burst from the start, feet flying and skis sliding in a mad dash to be flush with the finish line. If you don’t cheer their speed, you’ll giggle at each outhouse name.
What do snowshoes and softball have in common? Absolutely nothing! That’s why people turn out to watch and play Rondy Snowshoe Softball, the northern version of one of America’s favorite pastimes. The one-pitch tournament keeps the game moving fast even though participants themselves might be a bit slower with the oversized footwear. No snowshoes? No problem. Tournament organizers provide them.
Release the inner child with Rondy’s team snowball fight. Yukigassen (yew-key-gah-sen) was imported from Japan for the 2011 Rondy and returns in 2012. The name is taken from the Japanese words for “snow battle,” but the Rondy tourney takes on Alaska flair, with teams like Arctic Reign battling for snowball supremacy. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned snowball fight to warm up winter.
Consider visiting Anchorage during the winter months, when athletic competitions and a zany winter carnival provide the entertainment.
For hundreds of years, Alaska’s Native peoples used games to practice hunting and survival skills. These games helped develop strength, endurance and control over the body. Today, thousands of Alaska youth continue the tradition, with the best meeting in Anchorage for the NYO Games—formerly the Native Youth Olympics—in April.
The action takes place at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center as 500 athletes from 50 communities compete in such events as the wrist carry, Eskimo stick pull, and one- and two-foot high kick. Open to Alaska students from 7th through 12th grades, the NYO Games provide insight into Alaska’s rich cultural heritage while promoting a healthy lifestyle and good sportsmanship. Often during the games, competitors will be seen helping each other with technique. Many schools teach Native games.
The games are hosted by Cook Inlet Tribal Council, the social service agency for Cook Inlet Region. Each of the 10 events is based on skills used by Alaska’s first peoples. The games include the one-foot high kick, considered the headline event of the games, where competitors jump off both feet and attempt to kick a ball suspended high in the air with one foot. Also popular is the one-hand reach, which tests a person’s control over his or her body. Competitors balance the body on both hands in a squatting position. Once balance has been attained, they reach out with one hand in an attempt to touch a suspended ball.
For More Information:
Alaska Travel Industry Association