The culminating activity in Fairbanks to celebrate the solstice was a street festival. TV announcers breathlessly celebrated the fact that there would be 300 vendors there and over 30,000 people were expected to attend. Both appeared to be true. 300 vendors is no big deal for us urbanites, especially when 100 of them are selling fried food, but since Fairbanks only has 30,000 residents, the huge turn out was a cause for civic pride indeed. Many elements of this street fair could be found in any Small Town, USA, but the gold panning booth reminded us where we were. There was also a booth giving out information on how to best dry your wood in preparation for the cold winter ahead. Information was also being disseminated about rural electrification, a subject we have not heard about since we were children and the TVA brought power to rural Tennessee.
Nearly all the food vendors were Asian, which makes sense when we remember that we are closer to Honolulu than Seattle here. There were three stages with live music, some quite good. A band of servicemen from the local base were very much appreciated by the crowd, who shouted, "Thanks for all your sacrifices." Another trio who performs in the bars here was also enjoyable. There were a number of Indian/Eskimo/Native American/First Nation people in the crowd. (I never know what to call these folks in a PC way.) Some appeared to be quite liquored up and leapt up to do some drunken musical staggering whenever the music moved them.
Coincidental with the Solstice Festival a sort of boat race was taking place on the China River and we watched the participants go by from the festival area. The race was supposed to raise funds for this winter's sled dog race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks known as Yukon Quest. Each boat was supposed to contain a man, a woman and a dog, preferably decorated in some creative way. Instead we saw all manner of craft that zig zagged from bank to bank rather than proceeding down stream in anything that resembled a race. Surely the sled dogs can do better when it's their turn.
Now that the solstice is truly over, the campground is considerably emptier. We heard on the news that we lost 19 seconds of sunlight since yesterday. The slide toward winter has begun. We've stocked up on what goes for reasonably priced groceries and hardware around here and will stop for diesel tomorrow morning for $4.20/gallon. And then we'll be ready for the wilderness once again.