Bear Paw 2018 in the books
The Bear Paw Festival parade Saturday morning stretched nearly as long as the parade route along the Old Glenn and Business Boulevard, with 117 entries and roughly 20 more applicants turned away for lack of space.
“We have to make sure the beginning doesn’t catch up to the end,” laughed Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce executive director Debbie Rinckey, noting that the traditional limit is set at 100 entries.
The 2018 Bear Paw theme of “Amelia Bearhart” inspired a fleet of airplane floats and aviation-related subjects, from pilots to air traffic control towers. The Elks Club float, a large airplane piloted by a bear, nabbed the prize for best theme float. The grand prize winner, however, was a pirate ship — the “Amelia Bearhart Search Party.” A crew of pirates sponsored by Playful Learning Pediatric Therapy partnered with Eagle River Broncos football players to toss bags of Pirate’s Booty to spectators. Parade judges selected the Eagle River High School football booster club’s float as their favorite.
Rinckey, in her first year as the chamber’s executive director, was pleased with the turnout for the five-day festival. Organizers guesstimated some 40,000 people attended, from the festival opener painting event Wednesday night, through the pageant, fun run, parade, car show, rodeo, music festival and the carnival, plus the many popular kitschy contests in between.
The car show was another big draw with 125 entries. Vehicles ranged from antique and classic cars to trucks like Trent Burnham’s winning Chevrolet C10, to the 2010 Ford Mustang convertible awarded best in show, owned by Chuck Edwards of Eagle River. Voters selected a 1980 Triumph TR8 owned by Dean Cox for the people’s choice. Louis Finch took home the antique category plaque for his ’56 Thunderbird, while Jack Gray’s ’68 Camaro was named top muscle car.
Bear Paw Live, a music and beer festival fresh to the lineup this year, was a big hit. Six local bands played all afternoon and evening Friday, and the six Alaska breweries serving their beers included Eagle River’s own Odd Man Rush Brewing as well as Matanuska Brewing Company, a new venture in Palmer by Eagle River Ale House owner Matt Tomter. Rinckey thanked the brewers, led by Tomter, for coordinating Bear Paw Live as well as donating the beer sold at the festival.
“He was really helpful pulling all that together,” she said.
Festival goers feasted on fare ranging from crab cakes to waffles from more than 100 food vendors. This year only judges got to taste the entries in the salmon-cooking contest, in which teams of two concocted salmon entrees in 45 minutes using surprise ingredients. Judges awarded the top prize of $100 to Debra and Bobby Black for their salmon filet and salmon chowder. Salmon tacos with quinoa and salmon burritos scored second and third place respectively for Katie Dawley and son Rylan Dawley, and Barb Leaf with Mike Troit.
Festival goers voted for their favorites to decide the winners of several competitions. In the contest to decorate a pair of classic brown XtraTuf deck boots, Ann Corbett won the popular vote with her prettily painted Alaskan outdoors scene. Colorful jellyfish also racked up visitor votes to secure second place for artist Harley Wittmer. Third place went to Crystal Kennedy’s family for a 3D military scene complete with toy soldiers.
On Monday chamber staff was still tabulating the votes from other contests, like Alaska Waste’s challenge to paint murals on dumpsters. The myriad activities over the five days ran smoothly enough that Rinckey said she was able to get out and enjoy many of them herself. She credited Merry Braham, the chamber’s recently retired special events coordinator and one of Bear Paw’s founders, and other past organizers for establishing a well run festival.
Braham was set to serve as the parade grand marshal but broke her leg a few days before the parade. Leslie Lance, a longtime volunteer coordinator of Bear Paw logistics, stepped up to replace her. Rinckey said roughly 100-150 volunteers keep the growing festival going.
“We have a lot of return volunteers who have been volunteering in our community for years and years,” she said. “We couldn’t do it without them. They’re indispensable.”
When the chamber’s only full-time employees, Rinckey and special events coordinator Britney Olsen, finish all the necessary post-festival tasks, they will focus on the chamber’s annual dinner and auction fundraiser slated Sept. 22.
Meanwhile, Rinckey added, “We’re already thinking about next year’s Bear Paw.”
2018 Bear Paw Festival awards
The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce President’s Award:
The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce Spirit of the Festival Award
Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union
The Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Community Service Award
The 48th Annual Bear Paw Community Service Award Presented to an Outstanding Organization
Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions
The 48th Annual Bear Paw Community Service Award Presented to an Outstanding Individual
Mary McCormick from All Life is Yoga
Bear Paw Pageant
Odor Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest
1st place - Senneca Slocomb
2nd Place - Jocelyn Slocomb
3rd place - Gavin Jones!
Lunch Box Derby
1st place - Beck Juliuson @ 7’6”,
2nd Place - Zion Bennett @ 5’6”,
3rd place - Lukas Phifer @ 5”
Xtra Tuf Winners
Crystal Kennedy Family
Classic Car Show Winners
People’s Choice - Dean Cox with 1980 Triumph TR8
Best in Show - Charles Edwards - 2010 Mustang Convertible
Best Truck - Trent Burham - Chevy C10
Classic - Antique - Louis Finch - 56 Thunderbird
Muscle Car - Jack Gray - 68 Camaro
Slippery Salmon Olympics
1st place - “I Like Fish” - Liz Turner / Val Bee
2nd place - “Leslie’s Peeps” - Cole Conley / Ness Toafili
Grand Prize - Playful Learning Pediatric Therapy - Eagle River Broncos
Best Theme - Eagle River Elks Lodge 2682
Judges’ Choice - Eagle River High School Football Booster Club
KGOT Bear Paw Family Relay Challenge
1st place - Team Zimin coming in @ 1:10
2nd place - Team Eldridge coming in @ 1:21
3rd place - Team Michaud coming in @ 1:31
Chopped Salmon Throwdown
1st place - Salmon Filet with Salmon Chowder - Team DAB - Debra & Bobby Black - $100 CASH
2nd place - Taco’s with quinoa(Prince of Wales Tacos) - Katie Dawley and son Rylan Dawley - $75 CASH
3rd place - Burrito with crochet - Senior Duo - Barb Leaf and Mike Troit - $50 CASH
4th place - Salmon with rice - Zachary Bloom - Chepos Gift Certificate - $25
Winner - Amy Lauffer