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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Countdown to Iditarod Brings|Wacky Events to the Last Frontier

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CN) - It's Fur Rondy time in Alaska's largest city - just one of many silly to serious events held during Alaska's biggest winter festival Feb. 26 through March 6.

Fur Rendezvous, as it's formally called, has been held annually since 1935 as a way to celebrate the pioneering spirit. In addition to more than 20 official cultural and sporting activities, the Anchorage community hosts nearly 50 "Rondy Round Town" events offering "wacky winter fun for all ages".

Trappers bring in furs for auction and sprint-dog mushers compete in world championship sled dog races on the first weekend, while the long-distance dogs carry their musher and an honorary rider down 4th Avenue to mark the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on the second weekend. The official start of the 1,000-mile race is held the following day, two hours north of the city.

Heather Fuentes, a lifelong Alaskan and an Anchorage Court Supervisor, participated in the annual Outhouse Races with a racing team called The Fabulous Flying Duck Farts. They won first place in both the "traditional class" and the "best of the best" categories.

It may seem a bit strange, but visiting the outhouse was a daily routine in pioneer days when the first homesteaders arrived to mine for gold, build the railroad or support the military here. In some places not too far from major cities, people still use outhouses and live "off-grid" in "dry cabins" with no running water.

Yes, they do this by choice.

"The Fabulous Flying Duck Farts are a forever funny fabulous formation flying flock of fast, furious, and friendly foul-fowl; a fine festival feature famous for flatulent fueled flight, frequent fierce flapping, faithfully finishing first, and frolicking feathery fun," the team says on its website.

"We have a lot of fun," Fuentes said. "It's a way to raise money for charity and participate in truly Alaskan fun."

The team sells bright yellow hats sporting a duck-shaped bill, with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity.

"One of our entries shot flames from its top and was mounted on skis," Fuentes said. "Local fireman had a team next to ours and they were threatening to put out our flames."

There's still one major weekend of events remaining. Among the many upcoming festivities are a pond hockey classic, ice bowling and the Miners and Trappers Charity Ball.

In addition to the aforementioned Iditarod ceremonial start on March 4 is another crowd favorite, the Running of the Reindeer. In its eighth year as an event, the Running of the Reindeer involves participants dressed in silly costumes running alongside a half-dozen live reindeer - with proceeds going to Toys for Tots and the local YMCA.

There has been one damper on the fun this year: warmer than normal weather and a lack of snow. The municipality road crews have been storing up what little snow has fallen this winter and spreading it overnight before events.

Another 300 cubic yards of snow will be put down prior to the Iditarod's ceremonial start and the running of the reindeer. But the normal 11-mile-long ceremonial start will be reduced to three miles, since 85 teams must pass over the snow in above-freezing temperatures.

This past weekend, the annual sprint-dog races were reduced to five miles - previous races have covered up to 26 miles.

Courthouse News will have additional coverage of snow-starved Alaska, upcoming events and the Iditarod in the coming days.

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