Alaska, the Last Frontier - Summer 2012 travel blog


paddle wheel

salmon riding



traditional dinner

restored buildings

salmon bake


totem pole

antique earth mover

Pioneer Park was built in 1967 for the centennial celebration of Alaska's purchase from Russia. When we were here in 1989 it was known as Alaska Land and we and other tourists imagined some sort of Disneyland experience. Rather it is a collection of museums and buildings that celebrate Alaskan culture and Fairbanks history. We were especially impressed by a group of dioramas, a series of minute recreations of various native villages in northern Alaska. The creator worked from old photographs and included every detail he could see. This exhibit was visited by a 90 year old native woman who recognized her village and herself sitting on a log with her dog.

As Fairbanks modernized its downtown area, old buildings and cabins were moved to Pioneer Park creating a Gold Rush town. Today many of them are rented by retailers and vendors who sell snacks and arts and crafts from these buildings. This means that no admission is charged to the park; the rent from these buildings support the park. We toured Judge Wickersham's home, an especially nice turn of the century house. The judge was brought here to bring order to the Wild West environment after gold was discovered. Later he served long terms in Washington DC representing Alaska's interests as a non voting member of the Senate until Alaska became a state.

After wandering around we worked up an appetite and made the most of the all-you-can-eat salmon bake, which also includes crab legs on the weekend. The weather here has been wonderful and it was so nice to feast outside and dig in to this messy treat. We ended the visit with a musical revue in the theater (which used to be a grocery store.) The talented cast attempted to make us understand why why they love to live in Fairbanks. It's pleasant here at the moment, but every time I think about the endless darkness and bitter winter cold, I remain unconvinced. It takes a special person to live in Fairbanks.

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