The house tour that happens Saturday is much more than a way to peek into the homes of three Fairbanks families.

It’s a way for the American Association of University Women to earn money to offer scholarships to women returning to their college education.

Tickets to tour the homes cost $20.

Last year, the group gave two scholarships to women. Some of the money also goes to the national AAUW organization to fund lobbying efforts on women’s issues nationwide.

Depending on participation in this event, the local chapter might only be able to hand out one scholarship.

“We used to make $3,000 to $4,000 easily and several hundred people came through,” she said.

Participation has been dwindling the past few years as more activities are claiming peoples’ time.

This Drive Yourself House Tour has been going on for 42 years.

It’s not easy finding three houses in Fairbanks, according to organizer Ritchie Musick.

Somtimes people recommend houses, and sometimes Musick finds them herself. She happened to be at a wine tasting for one of them this year and thought it would be perfect for the house tour.

When she asks homeowners to participate, they are usually surprised and a little nervous.

“The normal answer is, ‘not this year, maybe next year,’” she said.

“Or they say, ‘we’re not quite ready, we haven’t done our landscaping, it’s not perfect.’”

“And some don’t want people tromping through their house,” she added.

She often has to ask six homeowners to find one who agrees.

On the day of the tour, a hostess mans the door and volunteers are stationed throughout the house.

“That’s a problem as our group gets older and smaller,” Musick said.

There are only two AAUW branches in Alaska: Fairbanks and Kodiak.

AAUW is different from the women’s group attached to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. AAUW is strictly a national organization.

There’s a reason this event has lasted as long as it has: People who go on the tour really enjoy it, she said.

“They enjoy seeing the homes,” Musick said. “They get ideas for their own homes.”

Here’s a brief sneak peek at the three homes available to visit from 1-5 p.m. Saturday.

• Harold and Susan Osborne’s home is on the south side of Chena Ridge. The lower level features a theater. The living area is circular. Outside, there is a huge backyard with a stream cascading down a rocky hill. A sitting area at the top offers a peaceful spot for enjoying the view. The outdoor area includes a large swing, a barbecue, outdoor hot tub and lounge area. There are plenty of bedrooms, including two that provide housing for Alaska Goldpanners.

• The home of Dennis and Julie Parker provides a spectacular view of the Tanana Valley. It’s built in a compact family style with a unique decor. There are an assortment of Alaskan and African animal mounts.

The master bedroom is upstairs and includes a deck and Jacuzzi, and the lower level features a large recreation room and their daughter’s bedroom.

• Mary Shields lives in the ultimate log cabin in the hills of Goldstream Valley.

An old-fashioned wood cook stove and cupboards hand painted with Alaska wildflowers are in the cozy kitchen. All the furniture is handmade. The bedroom has a wood-style bed with colorful quilt and the basement provides storage, guest space and all the equipment Shields needs for her sled dog activities. 

Tickets are available at If Only, Team Cutters and In My Element.


FCE conference


The 17 Mile Homemakers, of North Pole, hosted the statewide FCE Conference here recently.

FCE is a national grassroots volunteer organization that works to change communities for the better. FCE stands for Family, Community and Education.

Working with the Cooperative Extension Service, the group’s mission is to strengthen individuals, families and communities through education, leadership and action.

Fifty people from around the state, some from the Lower 48, attended the conference and workshops including meditative art, positive thinking, social media, energy conservation, stress, interdependence and other topics.

Dianne Doody, of North Pole, is the new president of Alaska FCE.

Barb Thomas, from the northern district, was honored for her service as the “Heart of FCE.”

For more information on this group, call 378-3624 or email

Contact community editor and columnist Kris Capps at, in the office at 459‑7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.