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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2 comments:

Nick and Deb's Excellent Adventure said...

Looks like an amazing day! Chicken and waffles wherever you go! The flowers are spectacular too! Love all the Jack London reference!

Karen Booth said...

The two foot high kick was super impressive, but the next two events made me a little squeamish. I hoped Steve ducked before going into the cabin! And I loved the blue and white hibiscus pottery, plus the flowers in it.

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