Fairbanks

Authentic Alaskan StoriesHear from people who call Fairbanks their home

"I moved to Alaska 29 years ago, and planned to stay one year; you'll hear that a lot in Fairbanks. The magic of Alaska, the warmth of its people, and a strong sense of community all combine to spin a web around those touched by the arctic.

I love to relax with gardening, and Fairbanks has the perfect conditions. We have 24 hours of daylight during the summer that almost equals three days of sun every day. So a three-month gardening season can really pay off, and it doesn't take half the year to do it! I find myself gathering a salad or walking in the garden at midnight and thinking it's normal.

Fairbanks is a hard place to leave; you'd be crazy to leave in summer with the warmth and energy of the constant daylight. And you don't want to miss the northern lights as the crisp fall air hits. Winter brings the comfort of friends reunited after a full-out summer. And the hillsides suddenly turn green on a day in spring, and it begins again."

~Althea St. Martin, legislative aide and master gardener

"Anyone visiting Alaska would be sorely amiss to not see Fairbanks at least once. Our residents embrace the 'end of the road' endurance and its rustic appeal, while enjoying the amenities of urban life.

As a Koyukon Athabascan, I appreciate all of the great activities my children can enjoy through the seasons surrounded by family and friends, since Fairbanks remains the 'hub' of the greater Native community. I eagerly await the North American Sled Dog Championships in winter, the political meetings for the Native community each spring, and the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in summer, where my daughter was a competitor in the Baby Regalia contest. Alaska Natives view the Tanana Valley State Fair each fall as the last big event before school, arriving for shopping and entertainment.

Fairbanks is a melody of many cultures, mine is just one of them. We embrace self-sufficiency, an unpretentious lifestyle, and we celebrate the individual. If you'd like to see the 'real' Alaska, then find us at the end of the road!"

~Ginger Placeres, editor, and daughter Miralynn David

"My first summer out of high school I worked in a gold mine in the Central District north of Fairbanks. The common question between miners was 'doin' any good?', and the pat nondescript response 'we're gettin' a little color' - which could mean 'we're going broke' or 'we're getting filthy rich' and you never really knew which was closer to the truth.

A couple of years later, taking up the goldsmithing trade and having spent the last 25 years making jewelry with locally produced gold nuggets, local mining has directly affected me. But everyone in Fairbanks is impacted by the economic trickle down of past and ongoing gold mining. It's the very basis of our local history and it still employs thousands and adds millions to our economy.

Gold gives you a warm feeling when you wear it, and with gold and oil being your locally produced choices, gold nuggets are the best souvenir choice. After 32 years in Fairbanks, I know that no matter how much gold has and will flow out of this area, its most golden and precious resource is its people."

~Mike Webb, goldsmith

"I moved to Fairbanks from Chicago for the same reasons that people have been coming to Alaska for generations; to explore the potential of the frontier, to push myself and help build a secure and independent future for Alaska through higher education. To be free of the mundane and artificial constraints that envelop the lives of people who live in older cities and suburbs.

The quintessential traits of the American character; generosity of spirit, love of the environment, sacrifice, optimism, individualism, restless inquisitiveness, pragmatism, appreciation of different political, religious and spiritual expressions, a healthy skepticism toward centralized government, the desire to live in more civil and harmonious communities were realized through migration westward. To be sure, there were also tragic and unintended consequences of this migration.

But Fairbanks, like the New World centuries ago, represents, at least for me, a new beginning. Life can be lonely and harsh, but it is precisely the juxtaposition of challenge, opportunity and freedom that draws us here inextricably. Only in extreme situations can we learn to live in harmony or test our potential as human beings."

~Daniel J. Julius, university vice president

"Fairbanks is a beautiful place to live, both winter and summer. In winter we feast our eyes on snow-covered forest and far-away, snow-capped mountains and look to the sky for beautiful shows of color; silvery-pink sunsets and sunrises in bright, blue skies; and the green and pink of the aurora's flowing curtains on a navy-blue, star-studded sky. Winter air is so still you can hear the wind-rush in a raven's wings and the swish of your snowshoes through dry, fluffy snow. It is never so cold in our dry, calm winters as it is in the damp and windy coastal towns.

For a small town, Fairbanks is very cosmopolitan, with a great variety of social and cultural activities and organizations, as well as offering wilderness and wildlife on your doorstep. I am living my 49th year here in this place, and have never considered living anywhere else."

~Joanne Oehring, pioneer and museum operator

"'Another day in paradise!' That's how I greet people here, friends, family, and visitors alike, because, to me, this great land is like paradise, and I love it and its people. I came to Fairbanks from the east coast in 1975 to attend the University and mush dogs, and I never left.

This land speaks to the spirit, with its big sky, northern lights, mountains, abundant wildlife, and extreme seasons, each with its own vibrant colors.

Our people live life with enthusiasm and humor, and we love to share our passion with our visitors. We participate in numerous activities, from the strenuous World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, and sled dog races, to the kooky duct-tape built raft float contest (the Red Green River Regatta) and outhouse races. Our area is rich in its Native culture and artwork, and is home to performing arts such as symphony and theatre, as well.

Hey, we've got it all! Come enjoy God's country with us. Experience 'another day in paradise!'"

~Don Standing Bear Forest, Native American Artist

"During my first visit to Fairbanks as a tour guide over 20 years ago, I wasn't quite sure how to make sense of the town, and surely didn't know how to describe the community to my fellow travelers for a two-night stay! That is, until I met the people of Fairbanks. I listened to their engaging tales of how permafrost affected their lives; how some of them transported water to their homes, how others ventured out of their 'dry cabins' at 70 below to join their beloved dogs on an afternoon sled ride . . . in the dark with a headlamp. Suddenly, I knew I had ventured to a magical place. A town with its rustic exterior, a downtown with rough roads and bucolic storefronts (and some quirkily-built homes) made sense. Fairbanks was a tour guide's dream! I soon learned I had so much to tell my audience, so many fascinating stories and people to introduce, that we needed a week here! I found myself eager to return to Fairbanks so I could share more fascinating stories and introduce my new-found friends to my guests.

Twenty years later, I find myself on the other end of the table, now explaining why I choose to live here! Though many of our rustic storefronts have changed and services are many, I make it a mission to relate to visitors that the 'heart' of Fairbanks has not changed - it is still just as generous with its stories, scenery and opportunities."

~Kristin Wells, hotel manager

"My greatest suspense and anticipation comes when cresting a rise in the Arctic, panting into a cool headwind, wondering - and knowing - what I'll find on the other side. Maybe a band of caribou threading through the country, maybe a grizzly bear digging roots and certainly a view of wilderness as far as I can see, and ten times beyond that.

That northern Alaska remains uniquely wild in this day and age is due in large part to the many national parks and preserves in the region. The land is still new, innocent and full of possibilities. Striking out into the wilds of Interior and Arctic Alaska holds the allure, challenge and reward it did a century ago.

Fairbanks is the jumping-off point from which to experience Alaska's wild essence. Bush planes, roadways and trailheads to adventure originate in Fairbanks, where visitors of all ages, skill levels and budgets can tie-in to a wilderness experience full of anticipation and possibility."

~David van den Berg, arctic wilderness guide

"As an opera singer, people are always asking me how a girl from Fairbanks, Alaska got involved in the arts. I love telling them about my experiences growing up in Fairbanks, the myriad of international artists who not only performed for us on our stages, but also spent time with us in workshops, master classes and arts festivals.

I remember performances of the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico where by the end of the show, the audience was on its feet dancing along, some down by the footlights, others being brought up on stage by the performers to join in. It was an unbelievable feeling to be included in the performance that way as an audience member, and something I have not found anywhere else.

Fairbanks is unique in its sense of community, and this is exceptionally demonstrated by Fairbanksans' enthusiasm and their embrace of the arts. I am grateful for all the opportunities I was given growing up, and will always be a proud Fairbanksan!"

~Vivica Genaux, mezzo soprano