Saddle up, Pawdner.
Eagle River’s biggest hoe-down of the year has officially begun, as the 2013 Bear Paw Festival got underway Wednesday, June 10 and continues through Sunday.
The theme for this year’s annual community celebration is “Round-up at the Bear Paw Corral,” and in keeping with the theme there’s a big notable new event this year.
According to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber, the festival will feature a three-day rodeo at Eagle River Lions Park. Presented by GMC Truck, the Eagle River Lions and Rodeo Alaska, rodeo action begins Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
One of the most popular events for young children is always the Teddy Bear Picnic in Eagle River Town Square Park. This year’s picnic, which again includes a Lunch Box Derby, Odor Eaters Rotten Sneakers contest, face painting and more, begins at 11 a.m. Friday. The newly-crowned Miss Bear Paw will also be on hand to lead the Teddy Bear Parade at this year’s picnic, which also includes free hot dogs — last year organizers served up more than 1,000.
Road closures for the festival include Business Boulevard from 10 a.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Sunday, as well as the parade route along the Old Glenn Highway from Eagle River Loop to Centerfield Drive.
The annual Bear Paw Pageant — where Mr. and Mrs. Bear Paw will earn crowns as well as scholarship money — will be held tonight (Thursday, July 11) at 7 p.m. at Chugiak High’s Steve Primis Auditorium. More than $3,000 in scholarships will be available to local teens, who will compete in a pageant whose criteria are “poise, creativity, friendliness and service to the community.”
The rotten sneaker contest is open to kids ages 5-15. Registration begins at 12:15, with the contest set for 1 p.m. Participants will compete for a chance at $200 prize and the opportunity to move on to the national competition.
Saturday is always a big day for Bear Paw, and this year is no different. The annual Bear Paw 5K race starts at 10:30 a.m., followed by the Grand Parade begins at 11 a.m. Saturday is also the day of the Slippery Salmon Olympics, a wacky, slimy race that starts at 1:15 p.m. at the Main Stage, which is located in front of Matanuska Valley FCU on Business Boulevard. The stage is home to many of the festival’s signature events.
For the second year, this year’s Running with the Bears race (1 p.m. Sunday) will feature animals that actually “bite.” Anyone suffering from a “bite wound” must report to the first-aid tent to receive medical attention — and a prize.
This year’s festival vendor court is located next to Garcia’s Restaurant along Business Boulevard, where everything from salmon quesadillas to cotton candy will tempt the hungry fairgoer. The vendor court has tables for eating and enjoying live music at the nearby vendor stage.
Again this year, Chugiak’s Golden Wheel Amusements will be running its carnival rides and games in Eagle River Town Square Park through Sunday.
There’s also almost nonstop entertainment at the festival’s two stages. At the Matanuska Valley FCU Main Stage, everything from live music to special events will be held, while at the vendor stage, more than 20 local musicians will play for the thousands of festival-goers expected to take part in the weekend event.
And don’t forget the IBEW Seafood Gone Wild Cookoff, which begins Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and this year is open to all seafood — not just salmon.
For a complete list of events, visit www.bearpawfestival.org or pick up an official festival guide at the chamber office or other locations around the festival grounds.