As sure as the dark of winter will creep toward Fairbanks, you can bet Alaskans will be out this weekend celebrating its polar opposite — the midnight sun.
This weekend is solstice weekend, one of the biggest celebrations of the year for Alaskans living their best lives under full, blazing 24-hour daylight. Events are numerous around Fairbanks — bands playing at local dive spots, neighborhood parties, summer-themed gatherings — with each of us trying to take in a weekend packed with social obligations.
Brace yourself; it’s going to get busy. Here are some of the biggest and most well-known events we in Fairbanks go all out for.
Midnight Sun Festival
The Midnight Sun Festival returns to downtown Fairbanks for its 38th year, running from noon to midnight Sunday. It’s the state’s largest single-day event, bringing more than 30,000 visitors into the city’s core.
Vendors and entertainment will be plenty. Approximately 200 vendor and food booths will line downtown streets selling everything from arts and crafts to homemade wares. Food options are vast, with trucks and stands hawking everything from wood-fired pizza and ice cream to Thai food, burgers and barbecue. Several drink options are available, including Goldie’s AK and beer tents.
Music and entertainment options include more than 40 live performances scheduled throughout the day.
The Midnight Sun Festival is free to attend and open to the public, but bring cash to patronize vendors and grab food. For more information and event schedules, see the Downtown Association of Fairbanks’ website, www.downtownfairbanks.com.
Midnight Sun Run
The 37th annual Midnight Sun Run starts at 10 p.m. Saturday at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and winds through midtown Fairbanks neighborhoods and block parties until ending at Pioneer Park, 2300 Airport Way. It’s part race, part spectacle, but all fun. In 2018, more than 3,500 runners from 41 states and 12 countries took part in the 10K.
While serious runners lead the pack — Fairbanks is a race-friendly city and we love our 10Ks — it’s the costumed runners who seem to steal the show. Outrageous outfits, be they political, witty or pop culture in nature, dominate the race. Along the route, you’ll find spectators passing out water or the occasional beer and bantering with runners.
There’s still time to register for the race, too. That information can be found online at midnightsunrun.net, which also contains more details about the route and the afterparty at Pioneer Park.
Midnight Sun Game
The Midnight Sun Game is a summer college baseball game played each year on summer solstice at Growden Memorial Park. This year marks the 114th time the game has been played without any artificial lights.
This year, the Alaska Goldpanners are taking on the Seattle Studs in the game that’s been covered by sports media outlets worldwide. It’s one of the highlights of summer in Fairbanks and draws fans from the Lower 48. More than 200 former Goldpanners have gone on to play Major League Baseball.
For Friday’s game, gates open at 8 p.m. with the first pitch slated for 10 p.m. More information and tickets can be found online at goldpanners.pointstreaksites.com.
The Great Alaskan Foodstock has become a big part of solstice events, with bands and musicians spending three days at Howling Dog Saloon in Fox raising food and money for the Fairbanks Community Foodbank.
This year marks the 25th annual event, with organizers planning on taking a break next year. The event features bands inside and outside the Howling Dog, each doing their part to raise support. Music starts at 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday and runs until late with bands rotating slots on stage. This year, 31 bands are signed up to play. Admission for Foodstock is $5 or five cans of food.
A highlight this year is The South Cushman Social Club, featuring Rodney Gaskins, executive director of the Fairbanks Rescue Mission, on drums. They’ll be taking the stage Friday night. A full lineup of bands can be found on the Facebook pages for Howling Dog Saloon and The Great Alaskan Foodstock.
“Foodstock ‘plays for food’ and most of the bands donate their time and energy to play so that somebody else can eat again,” organizer Cynthia Hill Reed wrote in an email to the News-Miner.
Over the years, the event has raised $95,000 and more than a ton of food for the Fairbanks Rescue Mission and Fairbanks Community Food Bank.
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.