Ski pilots: Fly In to the Willow Winter Carnival

In what may be the first Alaska fly-in of the year, ski-plane pilots are invited to fly into Willow Lake, and attend the Willow Winter Carnival.  As daylight slooowly starts to return to the north, this event provides an excuse, er good reason, to pre-heat and fly over to Willow.  The Winter Carnival is not new—it has been going on for more than 50 years.  But this year thanks to some hard work on the part of community organizer Jane Dale (one of many hats she wears), provisions were made allowing ski-planes to land on the lake, within easy walking distance of the festivities.

The first airplane to arrive at Willow Lake as part of the Winter Carnival. Mt. McKinley looms in the background.

So what is the Willow Winter Carnival?  The event takes place in and around the Community Center and includes dog sled races, ski competitions, an outhouse race, bridge tournament, extreme dog boarding (I was afraid to ask what this was), ice cream eating contest, and much more.  While I was there today the Colony High School Jazz Band entertained the crowd followed later in the day by a K9 explosive detection demonstration by the Anchorage Airport Police.  Something for everybody!

The fly-in is organized by the Alaska Airmen’s Association and the Willow Airport Support Group.  The skies were blue, and the air cool and crisp, to the tune of about -5 degrees F.  While I was there, the first aircraft landed: a classic yellow supercub.  While most people arrived by car, the community center was packed. In addition to the special events, vendors were selling food, kids faces were painted, a wide range of items were available for sale or being raffled off, including a four-wheeler.  I bought a book on Joe Redington Sr, directly from the author.

If you are looking for a break in this rather bazaar winter we are having (weather wise), consider firing up your ski-plane and flying over to Willow for a few hours.  The Carnival takes place during two back-to back weekends: Jan 26-27 and February 2-3.  If you fly, check out the Willow Winter Carnival Site Plan, showing where the ski-strip and parking areas have been placed on the lake. Be extra alert, as there are dog races and other events also occurring on the perimeter and south half of the lake.  The revenue derived from this event provides the operating funds for the community center.  Details about the carnival are found on the Willow Area Community Organization’s website.  Consider it an Alaskan version of the $50 hamburger!

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About Tom George

Tom George serves as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Regional Manager for Alaska. He resides in Fairbanks, and flies a Cessna 185. Follow Alaska aviation activities and events on Twitter at http://www.twitter/AOPAAlaska or at: http://www.aopa.org/region/ak

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