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The Golden Days of Fairbanks

A Guide to Fairbanks, Alaska

    A jail on wheels cruises through town, picking up rascals with outstanding warrants. Can-can dancers in fishnet tights and feather boas parade through the streets. Gun-toting rogues in wide-brimmed hats and garter-belted shirt sleeves meander through town.

    While this may sound like the turn-of-the-century in Fairbanks, the past comes back to life each July during Golden Days, a weeklong celebration of Fairbanks' gold rush heritage. The 2000 Golden Days celebration takes place July 13-23.

    The Midnight Sun shines on 10 days of Fairbanks-style fun. Take in a can-can show by the Fairbanks Golden Heart Dancers. Watch the Golden Days Grande Parade as it snakes through the city. Try your luck in the Golden Days Rubber Ducky Race where hundreds of numbered, yellow rubber duckies float down the Chena River to the cheers of ticket-holders on the riverbanks who hope to claim the race's pot. Participate or cheer from the sidelines in a variety of races, from canoeing and kayaking contests to the 16.2 mile Gold Discovery running race.

    See who's the fairest of them all in the ladies proper wear and can-can costume contests. See who's the hairiest of them all in the mustache, beard and hairy legs contests. Eat sourdough pancakes to your heart's content at a pancake feed. Stroll through a downtown street fair. Try the games and food, and shop for locally made handicrafts in the booths lining First Avenue. Be sure to stop in during the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics where the heritage and traditions of Alaska's first residents are displayed as Native Alaskans from around the state gather to dance and compete in challenging traditional games.

    Whatever you choose to see and do during Golden Days, you can bet you'll catch a little bit of the pioneering gold rush spirit that still shines on in Fairbanks. If you can't make it during Golden Days, there are still many golden opportunities to experience the pioneer town's rich past:

    El Dorado Gold Mine: Ride a narrow-gauge train through a permafrost tunnel into the El Dorado Gold Mine, an authentic mining camp where you'll see the challenges faced by the miners of old and how the miners of today make a living. At the end of the fully narrated tour, try your hand at gold panning and have your poke weighed by the El Dorado mine's assayers.

    Gold Dredge Number 8: This giant gold dredge, a designated National Historic District, dug up millions of ounces of gold between 1928 and 1959. See how the dredge operated and tour the collection of mammoth tusks, prehistoric bones and antique mining equipment from the dredge's golden era. Then, pan for gold and enjoy a miner's lunch in the mess hall.

    The Gold Rush Town at Alaskaland: Original pioneer log cabins from the state's stampede days turn a visit to this Gold Rush Town into a step back in time. A stop by the Pioneer Museum (near the Gold Rush Town) gives visitors a glimpse of the lives of the pioneers who came to make their fortunes here. An exhibit of Rusty Hurlein's dramatic paintings of the era further brings the Gold Rush Stampede to life.

    The Golden Heart Revue at Alaskaland's Palace Theatre and Saloon: This live musical comedy takes a loving, but lighthearted, look at the life and times of Fairbanks. Laugh along with locals as you learn about life on the Last Frontier, set to the music of Fairbanks own Jim Bell. The show takes place nightly in the summer on the stage of the saloon at Alaskaland, Fairbanks historic theme park.

    Service with a Smile at Ester Gold Camp's Malemute Saloon: The stage is through the swinging doors and across the sawdust floor at the Ester Gold Camp's Malemute Saloon. The show is full of music, stories and Robert Service poetry with a generous helping of laughs throughout. Service with a Smile shares the lives of the area's early pioneers nightly through original songs, comedy routines and the works of the Bard of the North, Robert Service.

    For more information, visit the FCVB web site at www.explorefairbanks.com.

Copyright Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau. Used here with permission.