Bear Paw corrals record crowd

Sun shines on 28th annual event


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Bear Paw Queen Victoria Bensel makes her way around a pylon during the Slippery Salmon Olympics on Saturday, July 13.

MIKE NESPER

What a weekend for Bear Paw.

Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s filled the festival’s final three days Friday, July 12 through Sunday, July 14.

Good thing the fire department was there.

AFD personnel used Truck 11 to cool down hot festival-goers in the middle of Business Boulevard.

“The fire department saved us,” said Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce Special Events Director Merry Braham.

Everyone from children to adults and even pets escaped the heat by running under the ladder truck for an ice-cold shower.

“The best water park ever,” Braham quipped.

Even when it look as if the five-day event would end on a cool and cloudy note, sun rays returned just in time to give participants in the Carrs ice cream eating contest a little extra motivation Sunday afternoon.

Thousands flocked to Eagle River to take part in the annual festivities. The 5K Bear Paw Classic, Teddy Bear Parade and Classic Car Show all had the largest number of entrants in history, Braham said.

“We’ve had record crowds,” she said.

And Braham would know.

She’s been part of Bear Paw every one of its 28 years.

“Me and the pens are probably the oldest things in the whole shebang,” said Braham, the festival’s director.

The Slippery Salmon Olympics is among Braham’s favorite events.

The same goes for Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Explaining the event — which requires participants to carry a dead, chilled humpy in one hand while balancing a Solo cup full of fizzy Coke in the other as they maneuver around an obstacle course — to her fellow senators is always amusing, she said.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Murkowski, who teamed up with Chamber Executive Director Susie Gorski.

The Chamber kicked off Bear Paw on July 10 when it recognized numerous local residents and businesses for their work in the community over the past year (see page 17).

The carnival — complete with rides and games provided by Chugiak’s Golden Wheel Amusements — started up Thursday. That evening, recent Chugiak High graduates Nathan Dennis and Victoria Bensel were crowned Bear Paw King and Queen at the Steve Primis Auditorium (see page 4).

Given the theme — Roundup at the Bear Paw Corral — this year’s festivities wouldn’t have been complete without a rodeo. GMC Truck and Rodeo Alaska put on three shows Friday through Sunday (see page 20). It was the first time in several years a rodeo was held during Bear Paw, Braham said.

Seeing the youngsters enjoy everything the Bear Paw Festival has to offer makes all the work of putting the event together worth it, Braham said.

“I love watching the kids,” she said.

It also gives Chugiak-Eagle River a chance to highlight the community, Braham said.

“It’s our hometown,” she said. “It’s been a fabulous community event.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com.

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