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Historic Solstice Stampede to Eagle

Eagle, AK—On Thursday June 20, 2019, thirty-one Pioneers representing Igloos in Fairbanks, Palmer and Delta, along with three guests made their way to sunny Eagle, Alaska, for three days and two nights of Pioneer fun under the spectacular midnight sun.

2019 Eagle Stampeders in front of the Eagle Courthouse.
Group at the Eagle Courthouse. (Back row L to R): Jay Schikora, Don Benson, Nola Barnes, George Lounsbury, Mike Murphy, Susan Nugent, Nick Nugent, Rodger Hopp, Pam Lambert. (Middle row L to R): Joanie Skilbred, Ruth Knapman, Joy McDougall, Audrey Murphy (standing), Libby Dalton, Marilyn Nigro, Rex Barnes, Georgianne Frank, Randy Frank. (Front row L to R): Dawn Frazier, Don Frazier, Robin McDougall, Sharon Benson, Gordon Souza, Michelle Murt, Kristina Ahlnas.

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Arrival

The first day of the adventure in Eagle, camp was set up on the riverbank and the weary travelers dined on hot dogs, hamburgers and a great array of side dishes while visiting and sharing stories of the adventure driving up the Taylor Highway. Exhausted from the long road trip, most turned in early.

A Day of History

Friday was filled with the Eagle Historical Society Tours, beginning at the Eagle Court House at 10:00 am with the group posing for an historic group photo. Following the tours and personal sightseeing was a the Pie and Ice Cream Social hosted by the ladies of Eagle in the old Redmen’s Hall with many Eagleites joining the Pioneers for the tasty fundraiser.

Pioneers take a joyride in a Ford Model T.
Bill Chace gives a joyride in his Ford Model T touring car to Milt & Lisa Behr and Michelle Murt.

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For the early Pioneers buried in the Eagle City Cemetery, a memorial service was next on the agenda. It was held in the Eagle Episcopal Chapel that is virtually the same as it was 100 years ago. The service was conducted by Dawn Frazier of Delta, Rodger Hopp of Fairbanks, and Sharon Benson of Palmer and concluded with Joy McDougall of Fairbanks leading the group with a rousing version of the Alaska Flag Song.

Pioneers assemble for the historic memorial service.
Waiting for the stragglers to arrive for the Pioneer Memorial Service that was conducted inside the old Eagle Episcopal Chapel. The service was conducted by Dawn Frazier of Delta as President, Rodger Hopp of Fairbanks as Historian, and Sharon Benson of Palmer as Chaplain.

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The evening meal of roasted chicken and barbecued ribs provided by Pioneers was shared with the residents of Eagle and other guests at the hotel. In all, there were just over 50 hungry people in the food line, including a couple of sojourners traveling down the Yukon.

At the conclusion of dinner, the group gathered around a campfire on the beautiful riverbank of the Yukon with the Ogilvie Mountains in the distance to initiate two new members into the Fairbanks Igloos using the original initiation ceremony of over 100 years ago. In this ceremony, which is rarely used today, the candidates are taken on a journey of rejection, being rescued from a crevasse, and finally being officially sworn in as new members to the Pioneers of Alaska.

Initiating two new Pioneers.
John and Betty Borg are rescued by the Pioneers from the crevasse (a white Igloo brand cooler) by the Pioneers during their initiation ceremony which made them honorary members of the Fairbanks Igloos.

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Following the ceremony, the group gathered to play a Pioneer trivia game with a wide array of prizes presented to those who know Pioneer history. The Fairbanks Pioneer Museum provided a print, some magnets, pins and books. Other prizes consisted of Chicken Fire Department T-shirts, a framed photo of Eagle, AK, and a $50 gift certificate for the Eagle Gas station.

The Queen’s Guard

Pioneers take an oath to help fellow travelers along the trail. On the night of the 21st as the group sat around the campfire trading lies, that oath was fulfilled. As a Pioneer finished telling an entertaining story, two canoes with four men from Great Britain came around the bend from upriver. The Pioneers greeted them as they pulled in to Eagle. When asked if there was some beer, it was promptly produced and the four were invited to camp.

2019 Fairbanks Pioneer Queen Regent poses with the Royal Grenadier Guards on June 21, 2019 at Eagle, Alaska.
2019 Fairbanks Pioneer Queen Regent poses with the Royal Grenadier Guards on June 21, 2019 at Eagle, Alaska.

The ladies brought out food as the men shared their story. As it turns out, they were Royal Grenadiers (the Queen’s guards who wear the bearskin hats). They were on an official mission to set a world record by floating the entire length of the Yukon River in just over one month.

They asked about the Pioneers of Alaska and when told they were in the presence of the Fairbanks Pioneer Queen Regent, Ruth Knapman, they were quite impressed! Queen Knapman retired to her camper and reappeared wearing her royal sash and crown. Her photo was then taken with the Queen’s Guardsmen, who wished to show it to their Queen upon their return home.

Follow the progress of the Grenadier Guards on their historic journey:

Wrap-up

On Saturday, June 22, the campers arose somewhat bleary-eyed and broke camp for the long trek back home.

The 2019 Eagle Solstice Stampede strengthened the fraternal bonds between members and Igloos and made everyone in Eagle, and those traveling through Eagle, aware of this great organization and the memorable events that include all who want to participate. They will always remember the Pioneer spirit and our mission will even spread as far as Buckingham Palace.

Before the trip was over, there were questions about next year’s stampede and although the location has not yet been determined, you can bet it will be full of adventure and old-time Pioneer Spirit!

—submitted by Joan Skilbred

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