Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska
Open North American



The 67th Annual GCI Open North American Sled Dog Championship (ONAC), hosted by Alaska Dog Mushing Association, brings a flurry of events to downtown Fairbanks each March. Weekend festivities surrounding ONAC, the premier sprint sled dog race in the world, kick off on Friday and include a fur auction, weight pull, parka parade, street vendors, draw and award banquet, and the adrenaline-charged official start/finish on 2nd Avenue.

Beginning Friday morning at 5:00AM, ONAC volunteers truck in 50-60 loads of snow to cover 2nd Avenue with a fluffy white race chute lined by downtown buildings and landmarks, setting the stage for three heats (20 mi, 20 mi, 30 mi) held over the course of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Open North American Championship earns its reputation as one of the most competitive sprint races on the globe from the grueling 30 mile run on the final day (most races top off at 20 mile heats). “Open” means teams may run with as many (or as few) dogs as they wish.

Wednesday night, Fairbanksans and visitors can get acquainted with ONAC competitors as they draw starting numbers at a “Meet the Mushers” Banquet at Westmark Hotel & Conference Center.

The start line on 2nd Avenue heats up each afternoon at 1:00PM, when teams line up and start their runs at two minute intervals to the cheers of race fans lining the street, part of the Chena River, looking down from rooftops, and peering through windows from the Marriott and within nearby businesses. Teams begin returning to the downtown track at around 2:00PM on Friday and Saturday and 2:30PM on Sunday.

On Saturday, fans can also catch the North American Weight Pull at noon in the Big Ray’s parking lot. Each year, the Interior Freight Dog Association (IFDA) pits the burliest (and lightest) breeds against one another in a trial of strength- strapping a 200lb. sled to a harnessed dog and cheering it 25 feet to the finish to qualify for the next heavier load. Four classes (ultra light, lightweight, middle weight, and heavy weight) separate the dogs into relative size and the top three finishers in each division earn cash prizes. Owners itching to get in on the action (and cash) can register with their dog at 10:00AM on Saturday and IFDA will provide professional harnesses and training tips before the event.

“It’s a crazy exciting thing to see,” Dan Bates, Vice President of IFDA, describes. “You get one minute to pull and for 30 seconds, the crowd has to be quiet. But when they announce the 30 sec. mark, people can start cheering for the dog and it can get really loud.” Last year’s weight pull set new state-wide records in every weight division. Dan says a friendly rivalry with weight pull enthusiasts in Anchorage has heated up in recent years as the strength of Fairbanks dogs has consistently beat out their competitors.

Saturday also marks the start of the Fur Auction by the Alaska Trappers Association.  Furs from local trappers and surplus and
confiscated hides and horns from Alaska Department of Fish and Game will be auctioned off. Viewing starts at 10:00AM and the auction runs until 2:00PM on both days. Fur may be dropped off at the auction site before 10:00AM on Saturday morning, but may not be up for bid until Sunday’s auction.

On Sunday, the Parka Parade sponsored by the Fairbanks Arts Association (FAA) displays the finest handcrafted traditional winter coats in the Interior sewn from beaver, fox, seal, and wolf pelts and donned by proud Native Alaskan artists or children who have inherited these cultural and familial heirlooms. Each parka is simultaneously an artistic masterpiece and storyboard that details local and family history in the “language of the parka,” says June Rogers, Executive Director of FAA. To sign up for the parka parade, look for the booth with a pink banner at ONAC on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. To watch the fashion show and vote by applause, look for participants between the time of the final start and first finisher on Sunday (approx. 1:30PM).

2012 brings more street vendors than in recent years to ONAC for easy access to food, drinks, and retail without sacrificing your spot on the sidewalk. River City Cafe and Espresso will sell coffee in front of their 2nd Avenue storefront, Brazil Nuts (a Downtown Market vendor) plans to set up inside Co-Op Plaza, and Loose Moose Cafe is serving signature burgers, caribou steak sandwiches, and hot dogs made from local meat. Brick-and-mortar businesses including Arctic Traveler’s Gift Shop, If Only…. a Fine Store, Alana’s Espresso Escape, Gallery 49, Big Ray’s, and the Mecca will also be open during the race on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

ONAC will be broadcast by webcam through the Alaska Dog Musher’s Association website, and via local radio (also streamed online) through KFAR 660AM.

Parking for ONAC is available in the parking garage, in the lot in front of Immaculate Conception Church, at Sadler’s on Cushman Street, in the courthouse parking lot on 1st Avenue, and along the street.



Wednesday, March 14th
6:00PM Meet the Mushers Banquet at Northern Latitudes, Westmark Hotel

Friday, March 16th
10:30AM Teams begin setting up on 2nd Avenue
1:00PM First ONAC heat (20 miles) begins on 2nd Avenue

Saturday, March 17th
10:30AM Teams begin setting up on 2nd Avenue
11:00AM-2:00PM Fur Auction by Alaska Trappers Association on 2nd Avenue (Big Ray’s Parking Lot)
12:00PM North American Weight Pull on 2nd Avenue (Big Ray’s Parking Lot)
1:00PM Second ONAC heat (20 miles) begins on 2nd Avenue

Sunday, March 18th
10:30AM Teams begin setting up on 2nd Avenue
11:00AM-2:00PM Fur Auction by Alaska Trappers Association on 2nd Avenue (Big Ray’s Parking Lot)
1:00PM Third ONAC heat (30 miles) begins on 2nd Avenue
1:30PM (approx) Parka Parade on 2nd Avenue
3:00PM Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on 2nd Avenue
6:00PM Finish Banquet at Gold Room, Westmark Hotel


(907)385-7322 Kathy Fitzgerald, Co-Chair at Open North American Championship

(907)451-0668 Dan Bates, Vice President at Interior Freight Dog Association

(907)456-6485 ext. 226 Anna Gagne-Hawes, Program Coordinator at Fairbanks Arts Association



Open North American

Open North American Sled Dog Races @ 2nd Avenue

The GCI Open North American Championship (ONAC) is the premiere sled dog sprint   race in the world, attracting the best sprint mushers from the United States, Canada,   Europe, and Japan. The three-day race is run every year in March from downtown   Fairbanks, Alaska, with heats of 20 miles the first two days, and a grueling   30-mile heat on the final day.

The ONAC is the oldest continuously run   sled dog race of any kind in the world. First run in 1946, the 2010 race   was the 65th running.

from the Alaska Dog Mushers’ Association website.


March 9-11 – Limited North American Championships
March 16-18 – 67th annual Open North American Championship


2nd Avenue


(907)457-MUSH (457-6874)






Open North American


The GCI Open North American (ONAC) is returning to downtown Fairbanks this weekend. Here’s what you need to know to attend:


ONAC is the oldest continuously-run sled dog race in the world, bringing mushers from around the globe to compete for the Governor’s Trophy over three days of racing, with heats of 20 miles on Friday and Saturday, and a nearly 30 mile run on Sunday. Each team competes in all three heats, and the champion is crowned on Sunday. “Open” refers to the unlimited number of dogs permitted to a team, as long as a musher can safely handle the whole group (the largest team ever was 24-26 dogs, but the average is 16-20). ONAC co-chair Kathy Fitzgerald says she expects around 23 teams to compete in 2011.


The parking garage on Lacey Street and Second Avenue will be open 24 hours for payment by credit card and 8am-6pm on Friday for cash and debit cards. Fees are $1.00 for every hour after the first thirty minutes.

Street parking along 1st Avenue, 3rd Avenue, and 4th Avenue will be available.

The courthouse parking lot on 1st Avenue will be open for public use.

Parking in front of the Big I off of Cushman Street will be available to race enthusiasts.

Sadler’s parking lot on Cushman Street is open to the public, as always. 

The parking lot in front of Immaculate Conception Church on the north side of the Chena River will be open on Friday and Saturday, and is just a short walk across Centennial Footbridge.

Second Avenue, the parking lot between Second and Third Avenue (beside Big Ray’s), and the Mt. McKinley Bank parking lot will be closed to public parking.


Saturday and Sunday are the biggest race days, and ONAC organizers have put together events to keep you entertained on these afternoons while teams are out on the trail.

Here’s the full schedule:

Wednesday, Mar. 16

12-2:30pm- Jeff Studdert Invitational, featuring “Mayors Challenge,” a passenger race between Mayors Cleworth, Isaacson, and a representative from Mayor Hopkins’ office ride along, and steer the sleds, for each half of a 7.7 mile race at the ADMA Mushers Hall on Farmers Loop. An estimated fifteen teams compete in all.

6pm- ONAC team sign-ups and starting position draw @ Northern Latitudes, Westmark Hotel & Conference Center

Friday, Mar. 18

11am- Teams begin arriving on Second Avenue for pre-race preparations.

1-1:30pm- Teams depart Second Avenue for first heat of 20 miles.

2pm- Teams begin to return from first heat.

Saturday, Mar. 19

11am- Teams begin arriving on Second Avenue for pre-race preparations.

1-1:30pm- Teams depart Second Avenue for second heat of 20 miles.

1:30pm (approx)- Soda pop scramble for kids (free drinks!)

2pm-  Teams begin to return from second heat.

Sunday, Mar. 20

11am- Teams begin arriving on Second Avenue for pre-race preparations.

1-1:30pm- Teams depart Second Avenue for 27.5 mi heat.

1:30pm (approx)- Parka Parade- model your homemade parka or watch the parade. (prize donations welcome- contact Kathy at 907-385-7322)

2:30pm (approx)- Teams begin to return from final heat.

3pm- Governor’s Trophy awarded to ONAC champion.

*note: Second Avenue will be closed to traffic from 5am-4pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday


Expect a few vendors on the street (offering caribou steak and reindeer dogs, as well as drinks from River City Café). Many downtown shops and restaurants will also be open for business.

You can listen live every day from 12:30-3pm at KFAR 660 AM. Online streaming of the broadcast and a live webcam are available at the Alaska Dog Mushers Association website.

Downtown Association of Fairbanks – Fairbanks Alaska