Golden Days is taking a smaller, scaled-back approach this year but the annual celebration that honors Fairbanks’ gold rush history is still a go.
It took a lot of work to juggle a summer festival in the middle of a pandemic, and it’s a feat the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce has pulled off.
"We absolutely know we can pull off a great alternate set of events that are both fun and safe for our community to participate in," said Marisa Sharrah, chamber president and CEO. "We heard loud and clear that people wanted to do something rather than cancel so we jumped in with the intent to come together at a distance of at least six feet."
This year, the Golden Days celebration is taking on what Sharrah called "a COVID-conscious set of events."
"We expect our community to come together and adhere to the same four guidelines that have been the mantra of this pandemic," she said. "Wear a mask, stay six feet from one another, keep your hands clean and stay home if you're not feeling well. We know that if we can cover these easy steps, we'll be able to enjoy the day without contributing to an increase of COVID cases of our friends and neighbors. We've taken steps to keep people distanced every step of the way.
"Families will be kept in the bubble of their car at the parade," she said. "Vendors are all spread out at the Street Fair, and the Rubber Duckie Race will be streamed on the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce Facebook page and via YouTube. Our events are all outdoor, which is the only favored style of community event these days. The nature of this event is that it attracts a mostly local audience so we don't have to worry about an influx of guests from outside the borough."
Golden Days celebrates the region’s gold rush history, when the precious metal was discovered in the hills around the city. Golden Days events are centered around Saturday and Sunday this year and include longstanding favorites such as the Rubber Duckie Race, a city-wide street fair, and a parade with a twist. The Pioneers of Alaska kicked off the week on Sunday with its rededication of the Felix Pedro monument at Mile 16 Steese Highway, the 73rd such rededication.
Here’s a look at the events you can expect this weekend. For more information on any events, including maps and information for ticketed events, visit fairbankschamber.org. You can also keep up online at www.facebook.com/FairbanksChamber.
This year’s parade — a reverse parade — is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Tanana Valley State Fairgrounds, 1800 College Ave. In the reverse parade, attendees will drive their own cars through a designated route at the fairgrounds, passing by the parade floats, which will be parked and immobile this year.
The idea behind the reverse parade is to keep guests safe and socially distanced from other attendees.
A parade route can be found on the chamber’s website, which says of the parade, “As always, we’ll have the best of Fairbanks on hand, from the hometown heroes of Ft. Wainwright and Eielson to local bands and entertainers, bringing the Fairbanks flair that makes this town a great place to live and play.”
This year’s street fair is taking a much different approach. Rather than cramming downtown streets with visitors, vendors, booths, and food trucks and huts will now be spread out across the city at socially distanced intervals. The street fair is 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and each “pod” or group of vendors will likely consists of three tables or booths. A map detailing what vendor, booth and food truck is where will be made available on the chamber’s website.
Rodeo and Music Fest
The Golden Days Rodeo and Music Fest is a two-day event this year with events slated for Saturday and Sunday at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds.
Gates open at 3 p.m. Saturday for the RAM Championship rodeo, which starts at 5 p.m. That’s followed by a country music concert with William Michael Morgan on the Denali State Bank Stage at 7 p.m. On Sunday, it’s day two of the rodeo with gates opening at noon and the rodeo starting at 2 p.m.
Ticketing information can be found on the chamber’s website or at www.rodeoalaska.com.
Sourdough Pancake Feed
The annual Golden Days Kiwanis Sourdough Pancake Feed returns this year with a breakfast feast from 7-10 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot of Saddler’s, 610 Cushman St. The all-you-can-eat pancakes with a side of sausage and juice costs $10.
Rubber Duckie Race
The Rubber Duckie Race, in which thousands of yellow plastic ducks race the Chena River from the Wendell Street bridge to the Cushman Street bridge, starts at 10 a.m. Sunday. Guests are encouraged to watch the race live via a link on the chamber’s website.
In the race, 8,000 rubber ducks are dumped into the river, and each numbered duck has a matching pink ticket and a matching yellow ticket numbered to correspond with the numbers on the ducks. The duck that crosses the finish line first will earn $10,000 cash for the winning yellow ticket holder and $5,000 for the winning pink ticket holder. There is more than $30,000 in cash and prizes and a total of 83 prizes up for grabs in this years race.
In addition to celebratory events, the chamber also touched on wearing face masks while out and about this weekend.
"We know there are many opinions about mask wearing in our community. We respectfully ask guests to wear a mask when in public," Sharrah said. "As a business advocacy organization, we are unabashedly pro-business, and we're confident face coverings and distancing measures are the best way to reduce the spread and minimize the negative impacts to businesses and jobs.
"We encourage people to make a day of it. Find your old favorites and discover new favorites at the street fair," she added. "Tell the vendors thank you for being there. Roll your windows down during the parade and tell the parade people thank you for being there while smiling and waving at them! Look at all of the great local businesses that have donated awesome prizes for the Rubber Duckie Race. This day is about community, and tradition, and this year, it's also about resiliency, and coming together, and supporting each other."
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.