This annual winter festival, in existence for more than 50 years, is held on back-to-back weekends at the end of January and beginning of February. With the state’s biggest winter fireworks display, $1,000 bingo cash pots, sled dog races, talent contests, foot races and fat-tire bike races, the festival is a regional draw and a fun place for travelers to see Alaskans cut loose.

The carnival kicks off with a dinner at the community center, where 250 people feast while a dozen artists do a “quick draw.” In under an hour, they’ll paint or sketch creations that are then auctioned off. Other highlights of opening night include fireworks, as well as mushers drawing positions for the dogsled race.

That’s just one of many races, which range from competitive to goofy. But perhaps the funniest event is held on the second weekend: the “Talent or Not” contest. Singers, jugglers, fire twirlers, and more take the stage to show off their skills (or lack of them).

Make sure to ask about the carnival pins, hand-painted agate, and wood creations by artist Ben Gomartely. And don’t miss the pancake breakfasts each morning at the elementary school.

Getting There

Coordinates
Latitude: 61.760942
Longitude: -150.065274

Willow Winter Carnival