It's finally here!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 19:00

The Ferris wheel is turning, the cotton candy is sweet and forecasters are calling for plenty of sun. After another long year of waiting, Chugiak-Eagle River residents are ready to party at the annual Bear Paw Festival, which is now officially open!

Now in its 28th year, Bear Paw has grown into far more than the small, community event it once was. Tens of thousands of people are expected to descend on our community this weekend, drawn by an incredible array of events running the gamut from rodeo to rotten sneakers.

When organizers with the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce first dreamed up the festival, the idea was to attract a few more people to Eagle River’s core downtown business district. Nowadays, it seems the entire town shuts down during Bear Paw, which effectively takes over Town Square Park and Business Boulevard. To say the festival gives our area an economic boost would be a big understatement, as hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent here each summer during the four-day festival.

In short, Bear Paw has been a bigger success than anyone could have imagined nearly three decades ago.

But the festival is far more than just a good economic boost for our community. Lot’s more.

Every kid who grows up in Chugiak-Eagle River looks forward to Bear Paw like Christmas in July. Between the carnival rides, Teddy Bear Picnic and dozens of yummy food vendors, the festival has everything a child could ever want.

You don’t have to be a kid to have fun at Bear Paw. There’s four days of music and entertainment lined up, including performances from local artists on the Vendor Stage — which is conveniently located near most of the food!

In keeping with this year’s theme — “Round up at the Bear Paw Corral” — there’s one big new event that promises to really shake things up. Beginning Friday and continuing through Sunday, GMC Truck and Rodeo Alaska will present rodeo events at Eagle River Lions Park. From bull riding to barrel racing, the rodeo should add a whole new element of excitement to this year’s festivities.

And of course, what would Bear Paw be without the big parade? This year’s Grand Parade will begin promptly at 11 a.m. on the Old Glenn Highway in downtown Eagle River. This year’s Grand Marshals are Eva Loken and Ron Aksamit, a pair of longtime area sourdoughs who have made their home here since the mid-70s. We couldn’t think of a better pair of mavericks to lead this year’s parade.

From its humble beginnings as a small-town festival to what is now a full-blown Southcentral Alaska summertime event, Bear Paw has truly become something our community can hang its hat on. We’re proud to call the festival our own, and we wish to thank all the people — including hundreds of volunteers — who have worked so hard to make this annual event such an amazing part of Chugiak-Eagle River.


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