Sunshine helped to draw a big crowd to downtown Anchorage on Saturday. And along with the sights and sounds of the Fur Rendezvous parade and dog races, there was also the ring of cash registers.
Rondy organizers say it costs about a million dollars to put on this event, but it brings a twenty-fold return to the Anchorage Economy.
Gary Hufford, who is president of the Fur Rondy board, pointed to the crowd behind him watching the sprint races.
“You start realizing they’re going to be eating at the restaurants or the vendors. They’re going to be shopping.”
Pete Davis, who was carrying his daughter, Apsen, on his shoulders, expects to spend about a hundred dollars overall.
“Today, we probably dropped twenty. Local coffee shop and cookie. Hot chocolate for the girl and stuff.”
One good sign that the festival is off to a good start: commemorate pin sales are going strong.
“38 percent of our revenues come from pin sales. This year, we are really close to a sell out,” says Hufford.
That’s a sharp contrast from four years ago, when organizers were considering calling it quits, because the Rondy was going broke.
“A lot of efforts in the last few years have been to focus on that younger set,” says Hufford, who credits two new events with revitalizing Rondy – the Running of the Reindeer and the Japanese snowball competition called the Yuki Gassen.
“We had 22 nations represented in the Running of the Reindeer last year, which says the international attention we’re getting is really important,” says Hufford.
Hufford has high hopes for Yuki Gassen, because the Rondy owns the franchise in the United States. Eventually Rondy organizers hope to hold a national competition during the festival along with the sled dog races.
The Rondy got another big boost this year. The most recent issue of the National Geographic Traveler’s Magazine named the Fur Rendezvous the top winter festival in the world.