Alaska’s Fur Rendezvous: From Outhouse Races to Sled Dogs

The strange looking creature here is a decorated outhouse that belongs to

The Fabulous Flying Duck Farts prepare their duck-billed entry for the Fur Rendezvous Outhouse Race in Anchorage Alaska. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The word Fur Rendezvous immediately brings to mind early American history, fur trading, and mountain men. One of the most renown/notorious of the rendezvous took place in the Green River region of Wyoming in the 1830s. After a long, lonely winter of trapping beavers and other fur-bearing mammals, the mountain men would gather on the Green River to meet with traders out of St. Louis who would purchase their winter harvest. There was lots of drinking, gambling, and snuggling up with accommodating women (for a fee)— which is pretty much what you might expect from barely civilized men who had spent the winter isolated in tiny cabins.  I’ve visited the region and backpacked through the mountains where beavers were trapped. You can read about this adventure at: A Rabid Wolf Walked through Camp.

Alaska was a Johnny-come-lately to the fur rendezvous business, deciding to create its event in 1935. Alaska was still a raw frontier at the time, however. It wouldn’t have been much different from the Rocky Mountains a hundred years earlier. It was a wild place, and the people who chose to live there were a bit on the wild side. I would have fit right in.

The Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage, or Rondy as they call it today, has lost much of its mountain man edge. But it is still an excuse to party. And it had become a major tourist attraction. When I was there with Peggy, our son Tony and his family a few weeks ago, we attended four of its many events: sled dog races, a snow carving contest, the Rondy Parade, and the annual outhouse race.  I’ve already written about the snow carving. My next blog will be on sled dogs. Today is all about porta potties and parades.

What’s not to like about an outhouse race, especially when one of the main contestants was the Fabulous Flying Duck Farts. Among its competitors were the Willow Fire Department, the Mormon Brigade, the AE club from the University of Alaska, and others. There was even a young woman being pushed in a shopping cart. Not even my fertile imagination could figure out how she fit in, but she was having fun. Both the Fabulous Flying Duck Farts and the AE club are involved in charitable activities. The jet propelled Duck Farts ended up winning, so I checked them out on Facebook. Here’s what they have to say about their organization:

“The Fabulous Flying Duck Farts are a forever funny fabulous formation flying flock of fast, furious, and friendly foul-fowl; a fine festival feature famous for flatulent fueled flight, frequent fierce flapping, faithfully finishing first, and frolicking feathery fun.”

That seems to sum it up.

And they are off!

And they are off! The Ducks’ jet propelled launch is shown on the side of the outhouse. Each entry required that a person be sitting on the “pot.”

The Mormon Battalion lacked the pizazz of the Flying Ducks. The child inside seems a little dubious about his role.

The Mormon Battalion lacked the pizzaz of the Flying Ducks. The child inside seems a little dubious about his job. The Battalion definitely earned points for its ragged roll of TP, however. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

These folks were having fun but any resemblance to a real outhouse is totally coincidental.

These folks were having fun but any resemblance to a real outhouse is totally coincidental. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Judging from the look, I'd say that the Willow Fire Department provided serious competition.

Judging from the look, I’d say that the Willow Fire Department provided serious competition. As the start and finish sign notes, the Architecture and Engineering club from the University of Alaska hosted the event. AE uses funds it raises to support Habitat for Humanity. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Rondy Parade had it all, starting with princesses, lots of princesses. There were also kids, dogs, old cars, older tractors, horses, a reindeer, white bread, M&M’s, Hells Angels, and a very large colon. The only thing missing was a band. I’ve never seen a major parade without a band. In fact, the only parade I’ve ever seen without a band was the Buncom Day parade near where we live in Oregon. It goes one block, turns around and repeats itself. And even it had first graders blowing kazoos. Still, the Rondy Parade entertained us well.

The Rondy Parade must have featured 15 or so princesses and queens. At least it seemed like it. The parade announcer joked all you need is a tiara.

The Rondy Parade must have featured 15 or so princesses and queens. At least it seemed like it. The parade announcer joked all you need is a tiara. This young woman stopped by for a visit.

This 'pumpkin-like' float pulled by a handsome black horse was one of several conveyances that transported princesses.

This ‘pumpkin-like’ float pulled by a handsome black horse was one of several conveyances that transported princesses. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Star the Reindeer lives on a lot in downtown Anchorage. I think there is a requirement that he participate in all Anchorage parades.

Star the Reindeer lives on a lot in downtown Anchorage. I think there is a requirement that he participate in all Anchorage parades.

Naturally, a good parade deserves at least one clown. I suspect more that one child had nightmares that night.

Naturally, a good parade deserves at least one clown. I suspect more that several children had clown nightmares that night.

Remember the white bread of your youth?

The white bread wasn’t nearly as scary unless you thought about its food value.

Bernese Mountain Dogs were out in force at the parade.

Bernese Mountain Dogs were out in force at the parade.

This Bernese Mountain Dog stopped by for a sniff.

One pup pulling a cart stopped by for a sniff.

I think these M&Ms had a Methodist Flavor.

I think these M&Ms represented the local Methodists.

This Hell's Angel participant brought a slightly different flavor to the parade.

In contrast, here is a Hell’s Angel participant.

Apparently, this is the latest in macho tricks by four wheel vehicles.

Apparently, this is the latest in macho tricks by four-wheel vehicles. It brings a whole new connotation to ‘mounting a tire.’

There were a number of old cars in the parade...

There were a number of old cars in the parade. The chains were hardly required on Anchorage’s globally warmed streets.

There were old trucks...

There were old trucks…

Old tractor featured in 2016 Fur Rondy Parade in Anchorage, AK.

And old tractors.

I recognize that this large colon had an important message. But I can't help myself; it was strange. And what in the heck were the folks dressed up inside supposed to be? There is no way I would dress up and be a whatever in a colon. I'll leave you with this image for my post.

And one very large colon. I recognize that it had an important message. But I can’t help myself; it was just strange. And here’s a probing question: what in the heck were the folks dressed up inside supposed to be? There is no way I would dress up and be a whatever in a colon. I’ll leave you with this last image for today. Don’t forget your checkup. NEXT BLOG: Sled dogs.

23 comments on “Alaska’s Fur Rendezvous: From Outhouse Races to Sled Dogs

  1. Your story reminds me of McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Wild man from Bear Paw. It was the film where Leanard Cohen’s songs were used first. Great photos and looks a lot of fun and culture testing. For sure.Curt.

  2. So cool, especially since Palin wasn’t there. I guess she was enlisting more of the what overwhelming % of Americans who will die for Trump, until Todd had the accident.
    I see her and Trump as everything that is wrong with America, and I do see how she came from Alaska, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she doesn’t represent Alaska.
    Native Alaskans do, and the white immigrants with brains and conscience.
    I have been to different parts of Alaska five times.
    It’s not like I like it or anything.
    I am sure I will go again. Haven’t been to Kenai Fjords.
    You capture the wonderful nature of the people so well.
    It is the most phenomonal place.

    • I thought of Sarah when the train went through Wasilla on the way to Fairbanks. My friends in Alaska are mainly embarrassed by the fact that she came from there. It is a fascinating state, however. I lived there from 1983-86 and travelled widely, including a number of backpacking and bicycling adventures. I even went on a cross-country ski camping trek into Denali during the winter. (Temps at -30 :)). –Curt

  3. Great post. Isn’t it just amazing some of the wonderful silliness humans get up to?
    The ‘colon’ float certainly is a new take on public health education.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. It looks like a fabulous, furry affair Curt. And how can you not root for the Duck Farts? As for the colon: at the KY State Fair last fall, there was an inflatable, walk-through colon and I’ll raise the stakes – it had the large intestine attached as well. I’m with you on the message, but damn! ~James

  5. Wow! This beats any fete parade I’ve ever seen – can’t believe a reindeer takes part – what a Star! The last photo entry leaves me feeling distinctly odd…Strange there wasn’t a band. Was their piped music though? Another world yet again – thank you for sharing.

    • No piped music either, Annika. 🙂 I had to believe the town had to have some high school marching bands. Somehow, a reindeer seemed appropriate for Alaska, although a caribou would have been more appropriate. They could have had a band playing in the colon. 😉 –Curt

  6. I continue to be impressed by the interesting places you find entertainment. This looks like a funky blast.
    And, of course, I love your comment about the white bread. 🙂

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