Golden Days arrived in Fairbanks with the aura of the era, as people in Edwardian dress and driving antique cars roamed downtown streets Saturday.
The Golden Days Grande Parade, presented by Kinross Fort Knox Gold Mine, kicked off at 10 a.m., led by the 9th Army Arctic Warrior Band. Public Works employees stood at street corners, directing floats and paradegoers around barriers and along the route.
Floats ranged from local dance troupes to the Pioneers of Alaska. Aerial silks artists twirled with Golden Hearts Performing Arts, and the Fairbanks Red Hackle Pipe Band could be heard from around corners and down the road.
With upward of 100 entries moving through the city, the parade lasted over an hour. Candy flew through car windows into onlookers’ hands, and floats continued to Noble Street, where the route concluded at the Gaffney Road intersection.
The parade passed behind Pioneer Park where, later in the day, another celebration of Fairbanks history was taking place.
Commemorating 114 years of the Tanana Valley Railroad, actors in period garb gathered beside Engine No. 1 inside the park, preparing to drive a golden spike between the railroad tracks.
The event was a reenactment of the ceremony marked the completion of the Tanana Valley Railroad in July 1905.
“Instead of it being just a gold mining camp that would mushroom up and die, the significance of this is because the railroad enabled machinery and equipment in so that the mines could be developed and made us the hub,” said Joan Skilbred, who wore her own era-evocative dress.
Julia Hnilicka, portraying Isabelle Barnette, was escorted to the railroad tracks and smiled for cameras before hammering the spike into the ground. Hnilicka wore a dress and hat handmade by Skilbred, who based the outfit on the clothes actually worn by Barnette during the driving of the golden spike.
This is the first time the Friends of the Tanana Valley Railroad have put on a reenactment of the Golden Spike ceremony. Skilbred is a member pitched the idea, thinking it would take some time to talk people into it, but was instead met with enthusiasm. The reenactment took eight months of planning before local actors came out to Pioneer Park for the real deal.
Skilbred said putting on the reenactment was special.
“It’s not the same thing we’ve done year, after year, after year,” she said, “and this engine is one of the oldest things we have in Fairbanks. That steam engine is the oldest running steam engine in Alaska and the Yukon currently running.”
A crowd of about 30, which also served as a birthday celebration for Engine No. 1, which was running, steam whistle and all, for the duration of the reenactment.
Patty Givens attended the event because she was excited about the 120th birthday of Engine No. 1. She said she loved the reenactment.
“I thought it was awesome. Everybody’s in period dress,” she said. “If I had period dress I would have worn it. I’ll have to look into getting some, because that looks like fun.”
Givens said she watched the engine being refurbished prior to the ceremony and thought that was interesting.
In a show of state spirit, following the ceremony attendees were called to sing the “Alaska Flag Song” with the cast of historic Fairbanks characters, which they did.
Later in the afternoon, the Rubber Duckie Race drew a crowd of hundreds to gather around the small stretch of the Chena River running beside Golden Heart Plaza. Crouched on river rocks, standing in the plaza and lined along the bridge, Fairbanksans turned out en masse to see the ducks, all while “Rubber Duckie” played over speakers.
Amy Costello looked down from the Cushman Street Bridge with a friend, their eyes scanning the river. Costello bought eight tickets for the race.
“I have four and four,” she said, referring to the pink and yellow ticket options. Owning a pink and yellow ticket with the same number constitutes a “full duck,” worth $15,000 if that duckie places first in the race.
Costello, from Anchorage, came up to Fairbanks for work, then found out about the race and decided to buy tickets — a first for her. She arrived about 20 minutes beforehand and walked around the street fair for a while, then came to the bridge to watch the ducks.
Costello had an easy attitude about her chances of winning.
“Nil,” she said, laughing, as dozens of ducks were prepared to drop into the water.
The ducks bobbed around a soft bend in the river and toward the finish line a little after 3:15 p.m.
The official list of winners will be posted Tuesday to the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce website.
The street fair continued until 5 p.m., with food trucks in operation and Fairbanksans joining the festivities throughout the evening.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal.