|Anchorage Fur Rendezvous (20"x24") by Judy Wedemeyer|
Historically, fur rendezvous was a mid-February gathering of fur trappers to sell or trade their winter harvest, as well as a festive time of social interaction and competitive games to break up the monotony of winter isolation. Fur trade was Alaska’s second-largest industry but the lifestyle was remote and solitary.
Vern Johnson organized a three-day sports tournament in Anchorage called the “Winter Sports Carnival”, held February 15-17, 1935. His desire to lift community spirit amongst 3000 isolated fellow residents was timed to coincide with the rendezvous. The carnival was renamed “Winter Sports Tournament and Fur Rendezvous” and became just “Fur Rendezvous” in 1937.
The original Winter Sports Carnival events included basketball, boxing, skiing, hockey, a sled dog race for children, a parade and bonfire. Present day events number over 100 yet the World Championship Sled Dog Race remains the key event since 1946 and draws mushers from across Alaska and the world to race 75 miles over three days. Fur Rendezvous has extended its traditional ten days from mid-February through early March since 2004, as a precursor to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Promotional pins were first created and sold in 1939 to help fund the event. Early pins were not mass-produced and are highly collectible. During the parade, spectators without a Rondy pin were playfully detained by Keystone ‘Rondy Kops’ in a mobile jail until a purchased pin paid for their release.
G. Mike Naumann’s 1954 dog mushing photo won a Blue Ribbon in the Fur Rondy Amateur Photo Contest. Daughter, Judy painted the photo in 1978.