Sunday, February 24th was my first trip to downtown Anchorage! I was thrilled to find out it was Fur Rendezvous.
Fur Rendezvous, created by Vern Johnson, was first celebrated in 1935 as a three-day event. It began as a sporting tournament with activities such as skiing, hockey, and a children’s sled dog race. At that time, Anchorage had a population of about 3,000 and this event brought the whole town out in celebration. What once was a small-town festival has become a ten-day event that is known nationally and internationally. Some of the activities include The Blanket Toss, The Fur Rondy Open World Championship Sled Dog Race, Rondy Carnival, The Outhouse Races, and even Running with the Reindeer!
Today, the streets were bustling with people, some heading to the carnival, some on a scavenger hunt, and some, like me, enjoying the sites. As we made our way down 4th Avenue, we stopped to watch the mushers prepare their dogs and sleds for The Fur Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race. This race was first run in 1946 and has drawn teams from Alaska, Canada, the lower 48 states, and from international countries. The competition is comprised of three 26-mile sprints, taking place on three consecutive days during the last weekend in February. Mushing on the main streets and the trails of Anchorage, makes this challenging race.
I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat for the last 26-mile sprint. Energy filled the air, especially from one amazing volunteer who assisted in getting the crowd ready for a good time. He captivated the audience singing and dancing between the bleachers to the music that echoed through the streets. His energy was indeed contagious, and all of us were ready to cheer each team on.
We watched eagerly as the first musher and his team of sled dogs made their way to the starting line. The team belonged to musher Matt Paveglio, a rookie from Eagle River, Alaska. It was interesting to watch as the volunteers not only held the sled in place but also used a snow machine to keep it from being pulled by the team of excited dogs. Barks and howls filled the air as they waited for the signal. When the countdown ended, their journey began.