Keepers of the flame: Annual Starvation Gulch burns brightly

Erin McGroarty/Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 27, 2011

In the early afternoon on Saturday, Sept. 24, a soft rain drizzled down from the thick cloud cover while students built their bonfire structures in the Taku parking lot on lower campus. Sporting protective work-gloves and hard hats, these students continued carefully stacking pallet upon pallet as their structures began to take shape. The work seemed to be almost over, when a loud whoop emitted from the crowd as two more trucks pull up, filled to the brim with scrap pallets. Students worked together to unload the trucks as quickly as possible, as the rain seemed to be getting to them.

“We’re almost finished here,” said Jesse Manchester, a member of the APO team, as he walked around the Alpha Phi Omega fire structure that appeared to be shaped like UAF’s mascot, the polar bear, “all we have to do now is fill in the middle.”

Later that night, loud music pulsed through the crowd as students flooded the parking lot. Both freshmen new to the event and veteran attendees came Sept. 24 to experience this year’s continuation of the Starvation Gulch tradition. As officials prepared for the lighting of the three bonfires while the UAF police and fire departments stood watch, students socialized, wandered throughout the maze of different booths, watched fire jugglers and ate free food. Hundreds of students, professors, and other Fairbanksans crowded around the three massive pallet structures, waiting for the fires to be lit. For many, this is the event that kicks off the rest of the school year, tying the UAF community together.

Though this event has been around for 88 years, Starvation Gulch still remains a mystery to many students who have never experienced it before.

“To be honest, I had no idea what it would be like,” said freshman Alex Harrington, a first-time Starvation Gulch attendee. “I thought it would just be one big bonfire, but I was glad to see all the different booths, and the DJ was a really great touch. I will definitely be back there next year.”


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