Fairbanks celebrates spring in many different ways—the theme of water runs through them all. We don’t usually have rain showers in April. That is fortunate because the combination of melting snow, freezing and thawing is quite treacherous for pedestrians and vehicles alike. Our three water related events are the geese to ponds on Creamer’s Field, the Nenana Ice Classic, and “Breakup.”
What the local news paper, the New Miner, calls the “goose watch” starts the end of March, beginning of April. This year, the first geese arrived in Fairbanks on April 6th.
The first individual in the interior of Alaska (that would include Delta, Tok, Salcha, North Pole, Fox—any of the outlying communities) to spot the return of the geese to Fairbanks receives recognition for this sure sign of spring. Creamer’s Field is prepped with grain for all the many migratory birds that arrive in the next few months. Pools of water that resemble lakes gather in Creamer’s Field and the birds feast and put on quite the show as they cover from their travels. It is a wonder to behold—trumpeter swans, Canandian geese, and a variety of ducks.
Another event that begins mid-March and continues until “the Tripod tips” is the Nenana Ice Classic. This tradition has run since 1917. A large tripod is placed in the center of the Tanana River at Nenana. Whoever guesses the minute when the tripod will “tip” –i.e, the ice will break beneath it wins the jackpot. This year even garnered the attention of HBO with the uniqueness of the event. One of our guests, Dona Schneider created the artwork for the poster as shown below.
Break-up is a term locals use to describe that wonderful event—melting of the snow. Whether this term is peculiar to Alaskans, or not I do not know; I have lived here since I was six. For me, I consider a true sign that spring is here when the pussy willows show up. Perhaps the combination of enough light and warm days make it fell more like spring is here to stay (regardless if a snowfall or two happens thereafter).