Locals have roughly 90 days per year to get their fill of outdoor extravaganzas, and in Fairbanks they go at it with a vengeance. The first big event of the season is the Midnight Sun Festival, held on summer solstice (June 21), with 30 live bands, food, a car show, and the famous Alaska Goldpanners Midnight Sun baseball game that continues past midnight without lights. For details, visit www.downtownfairbanks.com.
Next comes Golden Days, between the second and third weekends in July—a weeklong party culminating in a fun parade. The whole town turns out, and if you happen to be there, even without your camera, you won’t forget it.
After that comes the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (907/452-6646, www.weio.org), featuring Native Alaskan athletic games, dance, and art. This three-day mid-July event includes such unusual competitions as the Ear Pull, Greased Pole Walk, Kneel Jump, Knuckle Hop, Seal Skin, Toe Kick, and Blanket Toss. There’s even a Native Alaskan baby contest. It could be one of the most exotic and memorable events in Alaska.
The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival (907/474-8869, www.fsaf.org) is a two-week-long series of workshops, performances, and concerts encompassing classical music, opera, dance, theater, figure skating, and visual arts. It takes place late July–early August and attracts hundreds of students and instructors.
The big Tanana Valley State Fair (907/452-3750, www.tananavalleyfair.org) is at the Fairgrounds on College Road during the second and third weeks of August, with rides, music, food booths, craft booths, and those famous giant cabbages.
In late August, the Sandhill Crane Festival (www.arcticaudubon.org) celebrates these majestic birds as they begin their journey south. Bird watching, talks, and workshops are the main attractions.
The biggest winter event is the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race (907/452-7954, www.yukonquest.com), held in February. Other sled dog races include the Limited North American Sled Dog Championships in early March followed by the Open North American Championship Sled Dog Races in mid-March. Details on both are available from the Alaska Dog Mushers Association (907/457-6874, www.sleddog.org).
The World Ice Art Championships (907/451-8250, www.icealaska.com) is an early March event that attracts international sculptors who create truly amazing works of art with dramatic and colorful lighting. This isn’t your standard fancy restaurant art; some of these pieces may stand 20 feet tall and contain incredibly intricate work. Just getting the 1,500 tons of clear ice is a challenge. The children’s ice park here has a superfast luge for adrenaline junkies.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition