Image used under Creative Commons license from Liz
When the Summer Solstice comes to Alaska, there’s no rest for the weary – that is, at least, not at midnight, when we’re still enjoying the sun’s presence in the sky at the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Festival. Both locals and tourists from across the world love taking part in the variety of fun events that start on June 21st. Here are the top 10 reasons why the Midnight Sun Festival is a “can’t miss” event in Alaska this summer.
10. Baseball Never Looked So Good
Baseball may have a storied past and a big role to play in our nation’s history, but you’ve never seen it quite like this. The game features Fairbanks’ local semi-pro team, the Alaska Goldpanners, who throw the first pitch at 10:30PM on June 21st beneath a gorgeous sunset. And in just a few hours, the sun will pop up again, rising to meet the day. In Fairbanks, the sun truly rises and sets around baseball, at least for one evening.
9. Runs Are So Much More Fun After Dinner
As in, hours after dinner. In fact, like its baseball counterpart, the Midnight Sun Run doesn’t even start until 10PM on June 21st, meaning you can quite literally run into the setting sun, just like in those old Hollywood movies. For added drama, many of the 3,000 participants swap their running shorts and t-shirts for silly costumes, so you’ll be guaranteed a supportive and goofy crowd. Not a fan of getting that heart pumping? That’s fine. Head to the cheering section and compete for a Couch Potato Award instead.
And not just any puppies – sled dog puppies! These fluffy little fur balls can be found at various stalls throughout the festival for petting, play, demonstrations, and lots of love. Because… puppies!
7. You Might Strike Gold
Not only is the Midnight Sun Festival completely free, but there are also opportunities to pan for gold throughout the day. No money down and the potential to hit it big? That beats a Wall Street investment any day.
6. Sample A True Taste of Alaska
From local, contemporary and traditional crafts to BBQ that will get your mouth watering in no time, the festival’s 180 vendors will show you the best of what Alaska has to offer. Just save some ribs for us, okay?
5. Dance the Day Away
There’s music around every corner throughout the festival, so you’d have to try pretty hard not to get those toes tapping. This year’s lineup includes jazz, blues, bluegrass and everything in between. There are also a number of excellent demonstrations by local arts and culture groups, including Polynesian dancers and the 9th Army Band. Strolling down these busy downtown streets, you’ll receive an excellent glimpse into all that the local culture has to offer.
4. Shop ‘Till You Drop
Hate those pesky little things called “business hours”? If you’re a big shopper, there’s no need to rush between shops before they all close at 6. To celebrate the solstice, business owners keep festival hours, so you can shop until the sun sets… and rises again.
3. Cheer On the Most Hardcore Speed Boaters Around
Think speed boating is just a way to idle away a weekend? Not so for the boaters that compete in the intense Yukon 800, which begins at Pike’s Landing in Fairbanks at 11AM on June 22nd and ends on the 23rd in the same spot. The competition begins long before that, however, as competitors must build their boats from Sitka Spruce and plywood. The course is just as unique, taking racers down the Chena, Tanana and Yukon Rivers. Not familiar with them? They’re only some of the roughest rivers in the world, snaking through wilderness that truly earns the “wild” in its name. Cheering them on as they launch and as they return will give new meaning to all of your much more leisurely speedboat adventures.
2. You’ll Have Lots of Interesting Company
Over 30,000 people visit the Midnight Sun Festival every year, some of whom are local, and some of whom have traveled from across the world to be here. That makes for some fascinating people watching, as well as a good introduction to the many diverse cultures that call Alaska home. What better way to start a conversation with someone who really knows the terrain than to quite literally knock elbows with them?
1. There’s Sun at Midnight
When you think about it, making a top 10 list for this festival really should be beside the point. Look, there’s sun at midnight. Enough said!
Image used under Creative Commons license from Stephen Cysewski
So grab those dancing shoes, snag some barbeque and celebrate the day (and night) away in true Alaska style. There’s so much to do here, even certain super heroes travel up to enjoy the festivities. Happy Solstice!