Having a blast at Bear Paw: Locals offer festival hints
The 32nd annual Bear Paw Festival is right around the corner, and locals are gearing up for a long weekend full of family friendly festivities and treasured community traditions.
“It’s just super cute and safe,” said Eagle River resident Maggie Stadman, whose young daughter Talyn looked forward to the face painting and carnival rides. “We go probably almost every night.”
“And I love the balloons!” Talyn said.
Set to take place July 12-16 in downtown Eagle River, the popular summer event is expected to draw hundreds of Alaskan families, according to Merry Braham, events director at the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce. The four-day festival includes food vendors and foot races, a carnival and classic car show, a talent show, a parade, a pageant and more.
“We really try to do a little something for everyone,” Braham said.
Most festival events are centered around Town Square Park on Business Boulevard.
While the event is family oriented, she said, there are events for people of all ages, from the childrens’ Teddy Bear Picnic to the Handyman Relay and Sourdough Truck Competition for adults.
“It just seems to be getting bigger and bigger; sometimes I think you can’t see it all in one day,” said Eagle River resident Jean Breton.
“Just take advantage of everything!”
Breton, who works for State Farm Insurance, said she plans to spend the festival giving out helmets to kids in preparation for Saturday’s Bike Safety Rodeo, scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. at the local Mat Valley Federal Credit Union Branch.
The festival officially begins at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 12, with the Bear Paw Awards Luncheon at the Eagle River Ale House, then continues with more events Wednesday and Thursday afternoon and evening, including the Bear Paw Pageant at 7 p.m. at Chugiak High Thursday, July 13.
Golden Wheel Amusements will begin operating their carnival rides at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 14, with rides starting at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday and on noon Sunday.
The festival launches into high gear Friday, July 14: The famous Teddy Bear Picnic and the first-ever Lego Competition both begin at 11 a.m.
Other favorite local events include the classic car show (Friday at 6 p.m.), the Slippery Salmon Olympics (Saturday at 1:15 p.m.), Bear Paw’s Got Talent (Saturday at 3 p.m.), the human foosball tournament (Saturday at 5 p.m.), and the annual Running with the Bears (Sunday at 1 p.m.). There’s also the Bear Paw Rodeo, which will take place July 14-16 at the Eagle River Lions Park.
In addition to dozens of events, the festival will also feature food vendors and music each day.
One way to tackle it all? Organizers recommend breaking it up.
“You can do just a little bit each day, because you don’t have to pay to get in and you don’t have to pay to park,” Braham said.
For festival-goers on a short schedule, Saturday morning is an ideal time to visit, according to locals. The fun kicks off with a 5k race at 10:15 a.m. starting at the AutoZone store downtown.
“Of course, the big thing is the parade,” said Braham, who’s been part of the Bear Paw Festival for decades. “You never, ever, ever want to miss a parade.”
The parade begins at 11 a.m. and will follow Old Glenn Highway through downtown before turning onto Business Boulevard and looping back to Centerfield Drive. This year’s grand marshall is Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department chief Virginia Lauer-McMichael, who as been with the department for nearly 25 years.
Chugiak resident Bia Boese said she was looking forward to a flash mob planned to take place directly after the parade. She goes to the Bear Paw Festival every year with her kids, she said, and she’s learned a thing or two about navigating the festival crowds.
“It’s good to come earlier, because there’s no place to park,” she said.
A free shuttle service is scheduled to run on Saturday, June 15, with parking at VFW Post 9785 and the Eagle River Fred Meyer between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Vehicle access to the festival is restricted throughout the course of the event.
Whether you come Saturday morning or Friday night or Sunday afternoon, try to make time for the carnival, said Eagle River resident Hannah Brazfield.
“They have rides, if you have siblings or kids,” she said. “The people there are great, there are a lot of activities.”
There’s no shortage of activities all weekend long, Braham said. The classic car show Friday evening is always a family favorite, she said, and the Sunday-afternoon ice cream eating contest always scoops up a crowd. Visiting with young children? Don’t miss the Teddy Bear Picnic, she said.
“Rain or shine, it never really seems to matter, the kids just seem to have a great time,” Braham said.
For a complete schedule of events and more festival information, visit www.bearpawfestival.com.
Note: All events held on the festival grounds on Business Boulevard near Town Square Park unless otherwise noted. For complete event descriptions and more information, visit bearpawfestival.com.
BEAR PAW SCHEDULE:
Wednesday, July 12
11:30 a.m. — Bear Paw Awards Luncheon, Eagle River Ale House
6 p.m. — Xtra Tuf Competition, Handyman Relay, Chepo’s Mexican Restaurant (11535 Market Street)
6 p.m. — Sourdough Truck Competition, Re/Max of Eagle River (11525 Old Glenn)
Thursday, July 13
2 p.m. — Golden Wheel Amusement carnival begins, Town Square Park
6 p.m. — Operation Bear Paw Road Rally, Carl’s Jr.
6 p.m. — Suburban Challenge, Healthwise Care & Physical Therapy (11421 Old Glenn)
7 p.m. — Bear Paw Pageant, Chugiak High School
Friday, July 14
11 a.m. — Golden Wheel Amusement carnival begins, Town Square Park
11 a.m. — Lego Competition, Eagle River Town Center (12001 Business Boulevard)
11 a.m. — Teddy Bear Parade, Teddy Bear Picnic, Chalk the Walk, Town Square Park
11 a.m. — Odor Eaters Rotten Sneaker Challenge, Town Square Park
6 p.m. — Classic Car Show, Business Boulevard
6:30 p.m. — Bear Paw Rodeo, Eagle River Lions Park
Saturday, July 15
10:15 a.m. — Bear Paw Classic 5K run/walk, AutoZone (12250 Old Glenn)
11 a.m. — Golden Wheel Amusement carnival begins, Town Square Park
11 a.m. — Bear Paw Grand Parade, Old Glenn Highway and Business Boulevard
1 p.m. — Bicycle Safety Rodeo, Mat Valley Federal Credit Union (11800 Business Boulevard)
1:15 p.m. — Slippery Salmon Olympics, Mainstage
2:15 p.m. — Alaska Moving Arts performance, Mainstage
3 p.m. — Bear Paw’s Got Talent, Mainstage
3 p.m. — Chopped Salmon Throwdown, Mainstage
5 p.m. — Human foosball tournament, Mat Valley Federal Credit Union (11800 Business Boulevard)
6 p.m. — Bear Paw Rodeo, Eagle River Lions Park
Sunday, July 16
9 a.m. — Alaska Powerlifting competition, People Mover transit station
11:30 a.m. — VCA Dog/owner look-a-like contest, Mainstage
Noon — Golden Wheel Amusements carnival begins
12:30 p.m. — Candice’s Dance Studio, Mainstage
1 p.m. — Motorcycle show, Business Boulevard
1 p.m. — Running with the Bears 300 yard fun run, Mainstage/Business Boulevard
1:30 p.m. — Ice Cream Eating Contest, Mainstage
2 p.m. — Bear Paw Rodeo, Eagle River Lions Park
2:15 p.m. — Chopped Salmon Throwdown, Mainstage
4:30 p.m. — Ididaduck, Mainstage