The Fur Rendezvous Festival – or Fur Rondy for short – is held each February in Anchorage Alaska. This annual winter festival is deemed the largest of its kind in North American and is meant to celebrate the beginning of the end of winter. This is a major event that has been declared the number on winter carnival on the entire planet by National Geographic Traveler.
Why Fur Rendezvous?
While sled dogs may like to believe that the name refers to their thick coats of fur, it is really a throw back to the past, when hunters and fur trappers would use the event as an opportunity to form swap meets and sell their labors of winter. This often included pelts of fur from the many wild animals living and roaming about the outskirts of Anchorage.
In the mid 1930’s, Anchorage had a population of just 3,000 and remained isolated from the rest of the world. To help bring the community together and encourage trade, a 3 day sports event was organized to coincide with the fur trading. This Winter Sports Carnival did increase interest and activity and help in further increase interest in the fur trade. Later, the name evolved and became known as only Fur Rendezvous.
Why All the Bearded Men?
Before the middle of the last century, it was commonplace for both miners and trappers to wear thick beards. This led to a rule that all men had to show up for the festival with a beard, or they would have to pay a fine. This was done in all good fun, with most men being happy participants. That tradition still continues today, with sales of beard balm and beard trimmers rising dramatically in the months before the festival. The Miner’s and Trapper’s Charity and Mr. Fur Face beard contest are a big hit at the festival, with beards being grown as long and eccentric as possible, using dye, decoration and beard shaping to garner the most votes and win the coveted prize.
In 2004, the organizers made the decision to extend the festival past its normal ten days and into March so that it could serve as a lead in for the Idatarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which also brings in visitors from all over the world to Anchorage.
A series of events are scheduled each year during the festival including a number of competitions and races. Many of these involve the local sled dogs, who relish the opportunity and the attention it brings them from so many people.
This is a fantastic winter time event that can break up the bleak cold days and get you out there having fun. Make a trip to Anchorage this winter and see for yourself what makes this one of the most looked forward winter festivals in the world.