Enter Vern Johnson, the father of Fur Rendezvous. Vern was an outgoing Anchorage citizen, a likable man with a keen understanding of social conditions. To put the “win” back into winter and to help raise the spirits of his townspeople, he and his friends established a festival to coincide with the time that the miners and trappers came to town to sell their winter’s bounty. It began as a three-day sports tournament on February 15, 16 and 17, 1935 and featured hockey, skiing, boxing, basketball and a children’s sled dog race down Fourth Avenue. People came outside to “Rondy.”
|Fur Rondy Photo Gallery|
Today, Fur Rendezvous continues to be a party that residents relish. It has earned national and international notice, bringing visitors here from throughout the world. Let’s Rondy!
There are many Fur Rondy events –some old, some new. The Blanket Toss*, an ancient Native Alaskan tradition, joined the Festival in 1950. Alaskan Native hunters and dancers were flown into town from Nome and Little Diomede to participate in the Blanket Toss and perform artistic, captivating tribal dances. And of course, the Official Rondy Fur Auction has been a Festival event since the beginning- in fact, the Festival was named in large part because the fur trade was Alaska’s third most valuable industry in those days.
The World Championship Sled Dog Race started in 1946 and has become a main event of the Festival bringing teams of sled dogs and mushers to Anchorage from across Alaska and the world. The World Championship Dog Weight Pull began in 1967 as a bet between two dog owners to see whose animal could pull the biggest load. Four decades later, dog owners are still competing against each other for the cash, notoriety and the highly coveted title for that event. Other traditional Fur Rondy events include the Grand Parade, the Rondy Carnival, the Alaskan Original Men’s Snowshoe Softball; and the Grand Prix Auto Race, one of the oldest street races in North America. The Frostbite Footrace, Miners and Trappers Charity Ball, the Outhouse Races and many other events are also not to be missed. For a complete schedule of the events, see the Official Site!
“Let’s Rondy!” See you there!
(Official Fur Rondy Website information was used in the writing of this article.)