Dispatch: Fur Rondy, Anchorage, Alaska, USA

April 14, 2006

by Neil Zawicki

It's a scene where everyone goes a little batty for two weekends. I don't think there is a way to describe in writing what the white winter does to the head, but let us pause and reflect on Admiral Byrd, who elected to be locked in an underground shelter in Antarctica equipped with only a radio, some paper, and some canned peaches. Eventually — he snapped — begging to be rescued. The expedition was written off and kindly swept under the carpet to retain his national hero status. But why he cracked, no one knows.

Which brings me back to Fur Rondy. The name comes from the annual mobile market and fur fair (the rendezvous). What was once a practical meeting for trappers — a frontier mall and carnival — has morphed into a cabin fever elixir and/or insane breakdown on the ice.

There are sled dog ski races, a Ferris wheel, an actual grand prix, costumes and a parade. The only thing resembling a real Fur Rondy are all the wolf head hats, which turn out in force on the heads of school teachers and grocery clerks. The parade itself is surreal, and as we walked past it, we were confronted with a troupe of "community service patrol" vehicles — SUVs and F-250s with magnetic signs announcing their neighborhood: Mountain View Community Service Patrol, etc. In the back of one of these vehicles, an older woman was sitting, wearing her patrol's matching blue satin jacket, with vivid red lipstick, and from behind tinted glass, she was mechanically waving to… nothing.

Welcome to winter in Alaska. Right now, it's near blizzard conditions outside, and I am gearing up to walk the half-mile to work at the bookstore (we all have to do our part for high adventure). Don't worry about me; just think of ol' Admiral Byrd, whimpering like a fish-ripe Laura Ingles Wilder as he rattled out desperate Morse code pleadings to all the ships at sea. It's a robust life, for certain.


One Response to “Dispatch: Fur Rondy, Anchorage, Alaska, USA”

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