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The Fur Flies at Trappers Auction

Margaret Friedenauer / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / March 21, 2005

Although a biting wind was funneling down Second Avenue on Sunday, the Alaska Trappers Association fur auction near the starting line of the Open North American Championship drew a sizable crowd. Dozens of wolf, fox, beaver and wolverine pelts lined the makeshift stage of a flat-bed trailer in Big Ray's parking lot. Bags of moose and caribou antlers were piled and spilling onto the ground.

"A lot of good stuff to carve there," said auctioneer Ace Calloway, as he began soliciting bids for the antler collection.

The fur auction, the state's largest after the Fur Rendezvous auctions in Anchorage, is in its 29th year, according to coordinator Marty Middelstadt of the trappers association. Middelstadt said the furs and antlers come mostly from individual trappers who give the association a commission to auction their wares. The event also includes items from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game collection of confiscated furs from animals killed in defense of life or property or those that die of natural causes or illegal hunting. The association also gets to keep a commission from those sales, making the auction one of ATA's largest fund-raisers.

On Sunday, wolf pelts were going for between $250-$300 and up while small beaver pelts went for as little as $35. A group of tanned martin went for $45. Middelstadt said the prices were mediocre.

"It's not bad; it's not good," he said.

But turnout at the auction was consistent. Middelstadt said that Saturday's turnout was better than Sunday's, probably because of cooler weather conditions Sunday.

The crowd included trappers selling their owns furs and buying others, as well as visitors, tourists and artisans buying fur or antlers to sew or carve. Middelstadt said vendors also frequent the auction to buy products to sell in gift and souvenir shops in the summer.

"Everything goes in a circle," he said. "It all gets passed around."

Chris Tolliver from North Pole made several purchases Sunday. He purchased some moose antlers to send to a friend in a village who carves. He bought a wolf pelt for himself.

"Mostly just to lay around and play on," he said.

He also purchased a beaver hat he promptly donned against the chilling wind, tag still attached.

"I've been looking for a beaver hat and the price was right," Tolliver said.

The auction was just part of the long-standing Fairbanks Winter Carnival in February and March that include the World Ice Art Championships, the Limited and Open North American Championships and a fireworks finale on March 26.

Staff writer Margaret Friedenauer can be reached at 459-7572 or mfriedenauer@newsminer.com
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