The Anchorage Folk Festival (tel. 907/529-7383; www.anchoragefolkfestival.org), January 19 to January 29, 2012, imports musicians and shows off local talent in free concerts, workshops, and jam sessions, as well as four guest musician dances that raise money for the festival. Check the website for times and venues.
The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival (tel. 907/274-1177; www.furrondy.net), February 24 through March 4, 2012, is a winter celebration started in 1935 and recently rejuvenated with creative, youthful events such as the exciting and funny Running of the Reindeer, an event like the Pamplona Running of the Bulls, but far safer for all involved, since reindeer are notably gentle animals. The Native Arts Market, the biggest and best in the state, should not be missed, and there are many community events as well: a parade, fireworks, a carnival, craft fairs, snowshoe softball, dog-sled rides, and so on. The Rondy's traditional centerpiece (global warming permitting) is the speedy World Champion Sled Dog Race, a 3-day sprint event of about 25 miles per heat. In addition, the last weekend of the festival coincides with the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (tel. 907/376-5155; www.iditarod.com). The Iditarod, long Alaska's biggest winter event, brings in a flood of visitors who link seeing the race with winter sports and festivals in Anchorage. On the weekend of the start, the streets of Anchorage fill with foreign languages, as European visitors come in disproportionate numbers. The Iditarod begins from Anchorage the first Saturday in March (in 2012, Mar 3) and then proceeds in trucks to the restart the next day in the Mat-Su Valley for the 1,000-mile run to Nome.
The Anchorage Market & Festival is a big street fair and farmer's market held every weekend from mid-May through mid-September at 3rd Avenue and E Street (tel. 907/272-5634; www.anchoragemarkets.com).
The Alaska State Fair (tel. 907/745-4827; www.alaskastatefair.org), which culminates a 12-day run on Labor Day each year, is the biggest event in the area. It takes place in Palmer, 40 miles north of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. It's a locally oriented state fair, with rides, booths, exhibits, contests, fireworks, and live music. Much of which you would expect, but for the vegetables. The good soil and long days in the Matanuska Valley around Palmer boost their growth to massive size, the stuff of childhood nightmares. Cabbages are the size of bean-bag chairs. A mere beach-ball-size cabbage would be laughed off the stage. And it's not just the 125-pound cabbages. Imagine a 19-pound carrot, 35-pound broccoli, 43-pound beet, 63-pound celery, or 76-pound rutabaga (all records from the fair, among others you can check out on the website). The flower gardens are amazing, too, although not in the same way. Note that on the weekends, the fair ties up traffic between Palmer and Anchorage, so it's wise to go early or midweek, if possible. The Alaska Railroad runs a passenger car between the Anchorage Depot and a terminal at the fairgrounds on certain days.
The Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout basketball tournament (tel. 907/786-1293; www.goseawolves.com), hosted by the University of Alaska Anchorage, brings college men's and women's teams from all over the nation to the Sullivan Arena over Thanksgiving weekend and the preceding week.
The Anchorage International Film Festival (www.anchoragefilmfestival.org) has grown in a decade into a major event, with as many as a dozen screenings for 2 weeks starting in early December. The films come from every corner of the world and include the obscure and bizarre, as well as the profound.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.