Golden Days in Fairbanks, Alaska

Another weekend event we just happened upon is Golden Days, the town's celebration of its golden heritage. Fairbanks commemorates Felix Pedro’s discovery of gold in the hills north of the city in 1902. The pinnacle of the Golden Days activities is the largest parade in Alaska! Hosting more than 100 entries, it included marching bands, clowns, jugglers, antique cars, unicycle riders, floats and so much more. Guess who got up early to be there for all of it?

Steve and I explored the parade's staging area. What better place to get great photos? This miner shared that this was his donkeys' inaugural public event. They did great by the way.

And here I am with the "King". Ironically, although Elvis crisscrossed the U.S. numerous times on his concert tours through the years, there were nine states in which he never appeared, Alaska being one of them.

The photos I'm including are the ones that seemed most unique to being here (and the ones that made me smile). I couldn't include all that I would have liked. So let's start with Betty's car. The informational sign on the side of this 1929 Model A Ford reads, "Betty drove this car from Minnesota up to Pikes Peak then to LA in 1948. All original. No restoration." Love it! 
HooDoo Brewery took top prize in the Commercial category. I'm sorry I didn't capture all the barmaids in their dirndls.
No parade is complete without a walking boob. I'm just saying.
The LGBT group added some great color.

And who doesn't love a Funk Band singing We are Family?

Steve loved the Shriners racing around in these little cars. They looked like they were just a bunch of big kids having a blast... in fezzes!
 1985 anyone?

The University of Alaska, Fairbanks turned 100 this year and many alum are in town. The motto "Friends in Gold Places" was corrupted on many floats to read, "... COLD places".
One 4-H girl had everyone ahhhing with this little guy.

And this was the coolest end to a parade ever. All guessing of "are they done?" was eliminated when a team of trash bag carrying volunteers came by followed by these awesome and efficient street sweepers. That was truly a first. What a fantastic parade.
Downtown for the Annual Street Fair was next on our agenda. Fort Wainwright Army Base is located in Fairbanks so there was a great deal of military involvement in this great day.
Traditional fair food was everywhere. This little girl was eating an elephant ear.
Small town. Big fun. Big time.
There was a petting zoo and pony rides (and an errant animal or two).

Santa even visited from North Pole. This was a special treat for me since I missed him when I was there last week. The Golden Days had something for everyone. We really felt fortunate that our timing was so ideal!
Our last stop of the day worth blogging (the other day's events included grocery shopping and laundry washing) was at the Trans-Alaska Pipeline viewing spot. I've provided you with a link that even has a historical video explaining it all.
Briefly, 40 years ago, the first oil left Prudhoe Bay through the 789 mile pipeline in route to Valdez. It took $8 billion, 20,000 workers, 12-hour days, and 7-day weeks, to finish it in three years, inside the deadline. To actually see it was pretty powerful. Yes, our history lessons happen in the least expected places.
So if you're following this blog, you know We Be Jammin in Alaska!

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Fairbanks Day 3: More Awesomenesss

We returned to the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics for some events we just had to see. To better appreciate the background of these games, envision yourself in a community village hut three hundred years ago with the temperature outside at 60 degrees below zero, and everybody in attendance celebrating a successful seal hunt. While the young men are demonstrating their athletic prowess and strength, the umialiks, or whaling captains, are on the perimeter of the hut looking with great interest at the young adults - one or more of these young men would be incorporated into their whaling and hunting crews - the fastest, the strongest, the one showing great balance and endurance to pain would be the top pick. This puts what we have been seeing in the proper perspective.

The first event we saw was the Two-foot High Kick, which is considered the premier event of this competition (not my photo).
Traditionally, the coastal whaling villages would use these kicks as a form of communication. When a whale or other game has been taken, a messenger would run back toward the village and when within sight distance the messenger would jump and kick both feet into the air, signaling the people of the village that a whale or other game has been caught and to prepare themselves to help the hunters. 

The high kick requires the athlete to jump and kick a suspended object and land on the floor demonstrating balance to the floor officials. Interestingly, when they were done, they looked to the officials for their nod of approval. Very exciting to watch.
Next was the fish-cutting contest, derived from the cutting and drying of fish to preserve it for the seasons to come (a woman's only event). Because of the volume of fish needed it was important not only to be efficient, but also to be quick. This year's winner, Ariella Derrickson of Tanana, set a new world record at 27.61 seconds (new world record).
We were very eager to witness the Ear Pull, one of WEIO's most gruesome tests of pain. The victor demonstrates he/she can withstand pain, a trait sometimes needed to survive the harsh realities of the North.

In this event, there are two people sitting down facing each other with sinew looped around each other’s ear. The athletes must pull straight back keeping their heads straight, no twisting or jerking. The sinew is not allowed to rest on the face. Interestingly, one way to tell if a WEIO event is going to measure pain is that there are no preliminary rounds. An ear can only take so much punishment!
Our next stop was the incredibly amazing Pioneer Park. Built in 1967 as a centerpiece for Alaska’s centennial celebration, it was constructed as a nod to the state’s history (and for many years knows as Alaskaland until tourists arrived expecting a Disneyland-type attraction, which it wasn't).
The popularity of the park and its several attractions has ebbed and flowed during its 50 years, but it has been a mainstay for those involved with local art, theater and history. It contains two performance venues, a gazebo that’s often used for musical performances and weddings. It has spaces used for dances and gatherings. It has an art gallery and several museums, including exhibit space devoted to several historic transportation methods in the Interior — trains, planes and sternwheel riverboats. It has playgrounds, mini golf, a carousel and several pavilions that local families and groups can rent for barbecues and other gatherings. AND it houses many local businesses in cabins around the park.
One of the park's museums is this amazing train car is known as the Harding Car. It was part of the Alaska Railroad’s Congressional Special train that carried President Warren G. Harding and his party from Seward to Fairbanks and back in 1923. Harding was the first president to visit Alaska, and one of his primary purposes for the visit was to celebrate the completion of the Alaska Railroad by driving a golden spike at Nenana. I'm standing where our 29th president stood. What history!

At the heart of Pioneer Park, however, and the reason for its existence, is a well-founded concern: that Fairbanks wasn’t mindful enough of its history. The “pioneer town” that makes up the eastern half of the park is made up of historic cabins and other buildings that played prominent roles in the gold rush town’s early days. Without the foresight of the Pioneers of Alaska to preserve these pieces of Fairbanks’ heritage many of the most stirring reminders of where Fairbanks came from would have long since vanished from sight and memory.

This place was beyond amazing and really demands a more thorough explore. Next time! One of the events, being hosted in Pioneer Park, is the Fairbanks Garden Club Flower Show.
Of all the arrangements, I loved this one under "Best Golden Days" theme. Wow.
For another opportunity to see a performances as part of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, we headed to the quaint bar/concert hall Blue Loon.
Dinner was Chicken & Waffles from a food truck. Yum.
This evening of Cabaret featured Festival registrants who had been honing their serenading skills all week to prepare for this concert.
The variety of song choice was amazing. This woman wrote hers and I have to admit, she was my favorite. She sang of falling in love and getting her heart broken, yet still believing in love. It was a humorous song until the touching last stanza where I cried a bit. What talent and quality fun... all right here in Fairbanks.
There is so much to do and see. I don't know if a month in Alaska is going to be long enough!

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