July 25: The summer is a festival! That’s how it was put to us by an Alaskan who worked at one of the visitor centers where we stopped to ask what was going on for the next few days. We understood. The summers are short and there’s so much daylight that each week there’s another reason to celebrate something. As we have wound our way through and around towns up here we’ve come across different types of festivities.
We encountered the Golden Days Festival last weekend in Fairbanks. Felix Pedro, an Italian immigrant, discovered gold in the hills outside Fairbanks in the late 1880s and the rush was on. The Golden Days Festival celebrates the founding of Fairbanks, establishing the biggest boomtown in the north. And everyone sure seemed to be having fun.
Our parking spot at the Elks Lodge, next to the Chena River, was perfect for one activity during the festival – the Red Green Regatta, described by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner as “a watery …spectacle without compare.” The name is after The Red Green Show, a comedy on Canadian public TV that was a parody on home-improvement and fishing shows. The only rule we knew about for the floating entries was that one roll of duct tape be used on the craft. But it isn’t really about racing, it’s about do-it-yourself, non-motorized watercraft and having fun on the river. It was a hoot to stand on the bank and watch imaginative people making their way, sometimes with crossed fingers. Some rafts were riding very low and a few might have been bailing as they went. It was hard to tell for sure if the water inside some of them was from the water fights or seeping through in between some of the duct tape. Mind you, there were judges taking note of the special features and creativity. Some of the awards were for “Most Un ‘fathom’ able,” “Best Appreciated at a Distance,” and “Harold’s Debacle.” There must be some history to that last one. The Grand Prize went to “Possum Lodge Space Program.” I don’t believe I got a photo of that one, but you can use your own imagination based on the title. Our favorite was “The Octopuses Garden,” a floating trampoline. These young men won second place and were doing back flips off their raft all along the waterway.
Alaskans do know how to have a good time. Hope you are doing so. Talk to you later.