“the nation's premiere winter festival!”
The name "Fur Rendezvous" derives from swap meets at which fur trappers would gather to sell their winter harvests. In early Anchorage, these usually took place in mid-February. In 1935, Anchorage had a population of only about 3,000 and was very isolated, so to bring the community together and lift spirits, resident Vern Johnson organized a three-day sports tournament, called the Winter Sports Carnival, timed to coincide with the rendezvous, which brought increased activity. As the fur trade was then the second-largest industry in Alaska, folding it into the event seemed natural, and it was renamed the Winter Sports Tournament and Fur Rendezvous from 1937, and later just Fur Rendezvous. It was common for miners and trappers to have beards in the early days, so a "law" was even made that all men had to grow beards for this event or suffer a fine! This was considered to be part of the fun, because most men participated in it. Fur Rendezvous was canceled during the war years, but resumed in 1946, when the festival began to draw visitors from Outside, and has been held every year since. Since 1955 the event has been run by the non-profit Greater Anchorage, Inc. Traditionally Fur Rendezvous lasted ten days, but since 2004 it has extended through early March, in order to lead into the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and draw more visitors. Its importance has declined over the years as Anchorage has grown and become more closely connected to the Lower 48 and the rest of the world, removing some of the need for events like Rondy, but it remains extremely popular.
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