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In this December Alaska Travel News Bulletin you will find:
Social Media Spotlight

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1. Fur Rondy fun going 80 years strong

Alaska’s largest winter festival, Fur Rendezvous, celebrates 80 years this February. The Anchorage festival, a local favorite, is often referred to as “Fur Rondy” and began as a three-day sports tournament and fur auction in which fur trappers would come together to sell their winter harvests. Today, Fur Rondy is a community-wide event bringing visitors from across the state and from around the world to downtown Anchorage. Every February, the 10-day festival is kicked off with the World Championship Sled Dog Race and continues leading up to the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The festival commands the streets of downtown Anchorage with Alaska Native cultural displays and plenty of wacky events. Attendees can participate in sled dog races, a frostbite footrace, ice bowling, and even the iconic outhouse races, which involve teams building an outhouse, adding skis to the bottom and racing down Fourth Avenue. Another favorite event that draws quite a crowd is the Running of the Reindeer. Racers choose from five “herds” and attempt to outrun reindeer in a snowy sprint through downtown. Fur Rondy also has plenty of family fun with dance performances, the Rondy Carnival and the annual parade. The 2015 festival will take place Feb. 27 – March 8.

Media Contact:
Contact: Erik Judson, Fur Rondezvous
Phone: (907) 274-1172
Facebook: Fur Rondy
Twitter: @OfficialRondyAK

Photo credit: Fur Rondezvous/Eric Beeman
2. “FREEzing” Wednesdays at the Alaska SeaLife Center

The Alaska SeaLife Center, located in Seward, has announced the relaunch of the annual “FREEzing Wednesdays” program for locals to enjoy the center year round. The Alaska SeaLife Center’s “FREEzing Wednesdays” invite local Alaskans to enjoy complimentary general admission every Wednesday this winter with valid Alaska ID. The program launched on Nov. 5 and will continue through Feb. 25, 2015. The center is open throughout the year with standard pricing for visiting guests. The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only public aquarium in Alaska and works to promote understanding and stewardship of the state's diverse marine ecosystems.. Injured or sick marine animals are nursed back to health at the center through the Wildlife Response Program and are often released back into the wild. Exhibits are highly educational and allow for guests of all ages to interact with the animals and learn about local ecosystems.

Media Contact:
Contact: Alyssa Caracciolo, Alaska SeaLife Center
Phone: (907) 224-6334
Facebook: Alaska SeaLife Center
Twitter: @AlaskaSeaLife
Photo credit: Alaska SeaLife Center
3. Top of the world with Tundra Tours

Visitors to Barrow, the northernmost city in Alaska and the United States, can now enjoy a new cultural boutique hotel at the Top of the World Hotel. Amenities include a fitness center, free airport shuttle, common kitchens and modern upgrades including flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. The hotel, operated by Tundra Tours Inc., will also serve as a base camp for adventures around the area. Tundra Tours Inc., located on-site, offers visitors dynamic summer day trips ranging from polar bear viewing, trips to the Arctic Ocean and opportunities to learn about the culture and history of the people of Barrow. Tours to the Iñupiat Heritage Center are available for guests to experience traditional dance performances, demonstrations of subsistence practices and view historical displays. Once back at the hotel, patrons can treat themselves at the newly opened restaurant, Niġġivikput, (Iñupiaq for “our place to eat”). Visitors will also find locally made crafts in the hotel gift shop, allowing for a little piece of Barrow to travel back with them to wherever home may be.

Media Contact:
Contact: Monica Felland
Phone: (907) 852-0519
Facebook: Top of the World Hotel
Twitter: @TTI_TWH
Photo credit: Tundra Tours, Inc.
4. Wood bison to be released back into the wild

This spring, the once endangered wood bison will be reintroduced into the Alaska wilderness by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in partnership with the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and multiple private and public partners. These animals, which as adults can weigh on average 1,200-1,800 pounds each, will be the first to roam free in the United States in more than 100 years. The wood bison is North America’s largest land mammal and oral histories and skeletal remains show they inhabited much of Alaska for thousands of years before disappearing in the early 1900s, likely due to habitat change and unregulated hunting. The species was thought to have disappeared from North America entirely until a small genetically pure herd was discovered in Canada in 1957. Today there are approximately 11,000 wood bison in Canada. A total of 66 wood bison from Canada were transported to Alaska in 2003 and 2008 and are the source of the nearly 140 animals currently housed at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Girdwood, Alaska. The wood bison have been nurtured and bred at the center in preparation for their release. Up to 100 will be transported to the village of Shageluk in the lower Innoko and Yukon River area in March or April 2015 via C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft. They will be closely monitored during their first year in the wild. Visitors to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center will still have the chance to visit with wood bison that remain residents at the center near Girdwood.

This program, conceived nearly two decades ago hopes to restore a missing part of Alaska’s boreal forest ecosystem as the land has lacked a large lowland grazing animal for at least one hundred years.

Media Contacts:
Contact: Cathie Harms, ADF&G Division of Wildlife Conservation
Phone: (907) 459-7231
Facebook: Alaska Department of Fish & Game
Contact: Scott Michaelis, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Phone: (952) 836-7719
Facebook: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Twitter: @akwildlife
Photo credit: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center/Doug Lindstrand
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