This annual mid-July festival has been taking place in Eagle River since 1985. Originally conceived by the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce as a celebration of our small community and local businesses. The five-day event still kicks off with an award ceremony to recognize the good works done by local businesses and organizations.
Starting out as a small, hometown event, Bear Paw has grown substantially in its 32 years. It has seen a continual increase in attendance as well as the variety of events. The Bear Paw Classic 5k, for example, draws about as many participants as the New Year’s Eve, Northern Lights Resolution Run in Anchorage.
Lifelong Eagle River resident Alicia Minor has noticed this change. Going to Bear Paw since she was young, she’s noticed that the festival used to be a small town event, but now attracts many people from outside of the Eagle River area. While this is clearly good for our town, she is somewhat disappointed it’s now harder to run into neighbors and friends because the events are so crowded.
Despite the crowds, she continues the Bear Paw tradition by taking her daughter to events. Reflecting on her experiences then and now, she remembers, “By far for us the parade was always our favorite thing as kids. Happy to say I think it is the same for kids now too. I mean what kid doesn’t love having candy thrown at them!”
While a 5k run and parade may make Bear Paw look like a typical festival, there are several that are distinctly Alaskan.
The XtraTuf Competition, Slippery Salmon Olympics and Chopped Salmon Throwdown remind all attendees that this busy, popular summer fair is indeed taking place in Alaska.
These events and many more are made possible due to the tireless work done by the members of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce. Long time local Lee Jordan expresses his gratitude:
“The Bear Paw Festival has grown each year since its beginning, thanks to a great bunch of volunteers who do an incredible amount of work to make it a success. It brings people from all over Southcentral Alaska to take part in the fun and provides great entertainment for local residents. My hat is off to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce for making this event possible. Those of us who watch the parade, visit the exhibits, enjoy the rides and entertainment do not realize all the work that goes into the planning and coordination needed for something of this magnitude. I continue to be amazed at how well it performs year after year, reaching new heights each time.”
These community-minded efforts, planning and experience have created an event that provides activities for the whole family.
The Bear Paw Awards at the Eagle River Ale House were held on Wednesday, and events continue through Sunday. A full schedule is available in the official Bear Paw Guide located inside the ECHO News and at www.bearpawfestival.com.
If you are looking for something to do:
The Eagle River Royalty Pageant will return after taking 2016 off. Under new direction, this scholarship program awards up to $1000 to winners. Contestants are high school students, both male and female, who participate in a costume contest and personal interview. Six total scholarships are given. The contest will take place at Chugiak High School at 7pm on Thursday, July 13th.
Teddy Bear Picnic
The Teddy Bear Picnic starts at 11am on Friday, July 14th, and features a fun list of activities for our youngest community members. They may participate in games, stories, a mini-parade, and a vegetable derby. Additionally, Odor Eaters sponsors a Rotten Sneaker contest. Last year’s champion traveled to New York City and claimed the grand prize of $2,500 there. Activities take place at Eagle River Commons.
Real Cowboys pony up great entertainment at Lions Park July 14, 15 and 16th.
10:15am on Saturday, July 15th is the start time for the annual Bear Paw Classic 5k run. With nearly 1000 runners and walkers participating each year and awards three deep in each age category, this race is one not to be missed. Race day registration is available from 8:30-10am at the start line near the AutoZone in Eagle River.
Bear Paw Grand Parade
This year’s parade will start at 11am on Saturday the 15th, and follow the usual parade route through town. Parade goers can expect various floats sponsored by local businesses and nonprofits, as well as military marches and fire engines. In 2016, the Grand Prize for the best float went to Chepo’s Mexican Restaurant.
Alaska Powerlifting Championship
A new event this year is the Alaska Powerlifting Championship. Visitors to the festival will have the opportunity to watch the strong and skilled athletes squat, deadlift and bench press impressive weights. Viewers may even witness new state records in the making. Starting at noon Sunday, July 16th, the championship will take place at Town Square Park.