Small-town pleasures give heart to Funny River's summer festival

Posted: Friday, August 02, 2002

Funny River residents and others from far and wide are invited to spend a weekend at the annual Funny River Festival scheduled to begin at 7 tonight and run through 5 p.m. Sunday.

"Anyone's welcome to come. It's good wholesome family fun," said Wilda Snow, treasurer for the Funny River Chamber of Commerce and Community Association.

The annual shindig is the sole way the community raises funds to support community center activities year-round.

Tonight the event, located on Pioneer Road about 12 miles down Funny River Road, will kick off with a community favorite -- a nickels tournament.

"I had never heard of it till I moved here. But here it is just a beloved game," Snow said, describing the card game as similar to rummy.

The schedule for the remainder of the weekend is full of other games that will appeal to all ages. There is no fee for attending the festival, but purchasing tickets is the only way to participate in games or purchase anything from the concession stand, which Snow said goes beyond traditional festival fare. "It'll have sloppy joes to die for and potato salad that is great," she said.

Each ticket is equivalent to 25 cents, and games will vary in the number of tickets needed to play.

Another way the community association makes money is by selling T-shirts, hats and buttons with the year's festival theme and decal on them. This year's theme, "Welcome Home Buster," is the inspiration of several community residents.

Buster's story, containing tales of his travels around the world as he tries to make his way home to Funny River, was told in installments in the community newsletter throughout the winter. Now, that the bear is home to stay, he is being welcomed with the festival.

Snow even made a display with a caricature of Buster, complete with floppy arms.

"I left his arms hanging loose so you can have your picture there hugging him," she said. "He's a very friendly looking bear."

Beware, though, to anyone who does not purchase a Buster pin.

"There's a jail if you don't have your festival button on," Snow said. "You are thrown in jail, so then you have to be bailed out."

Most jailbirds can be released by purchasing a $1 pin. However, community notables' bails have been as high as $10 in the past.

"Last year we had a guy pay $10 to keep someone in the jail," she said.

If you manage to steer clear of the jailhouse, there will be a dance Saturday night from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. complete with music that will appeal to all ages.

"He promised he's going to to play a rotation of songs that appeal to today's youth right up to seniors," Snow said.

Sunday, an auction is planned.

"There are so many lovely things, just absolutely lovely things. They will all be auctioned off. Sometimes you can get terrific buys."

Snow said she is hoping to have a turnout of 300 to 500 people throughout the weekend, which may not be difficult for a community that swells to three times its normal size in the summer months.

Snow, though, is a year-round resident who fell in love with the area when she and her husband were looking for a location to retire to from Anchorage.

"It's absolutely wonderful," she said. "They just opened their arms. We've been real blessed to live there."

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