Starvation Gulch brings the party to UAF again


The 91st annual Starvation Gulch celebration took place Sept. 27, 2014. Photo by Mikhail Ronnander

By Mikhail Ronnander

Sun Star Reporter

On Sept. 27, 2014 the University of Alaska Fairbanks hosted the Starvation Gulch event for the 91st year in the Nenana Parking lot across from the Patty Center. Starvation Gulch is part of UAF’s three tradition weeks, the other two being Winter Carnival and Spring Festival, and is designed to help ease students into campus life.

At Starvation Gulch, students compete to build the biggest fire out of wooden pallet structures. The event was home to many stands, some of which included a DJ stand, a hamburger stand, and a stand dedicated to safe sex practices.

The Fairbanks Fire Department lit 5 fires and stood by throughout the event to ensure the safety of the crowd, as well as the tree line behind the parking lot. The event was originally held in the Taku Parking lot on campus, but was moved to the Nenana lot this year to provide a more open area for police and UAF faculty to watch for illicit activities.


The 91st annual Starvation Gulch celebration took place Sept. 27, 2014. Photo by Mikhail Ronnander

The event went off without a hitch, with no injuries or serious altercations in the crowd. This may have to do with the Community Service Officers and police scattered throughout the event ensuring the safety of those attending.

Starvation Gulch was started in 1923 by UAF’s first president Charles E. Bunnell. Originally, students built an entire mock town to hold events for the week then burnt it to the ground at the end of the week. The fire is meant to symbolize the passing of the torch of knowledge. Now the event is safely observed by firemen who ensure that the flames won’t get out of hand. The event is also now restricted to keep the structures under 75 feet.

In 1956 the event was the location of several alcohol fueled battles that caused UAF president Earnest Patty to ban alcohol campus-wide, which led to the creation of the tradition stone. UAF students at the time were so enraged that they held a mock funeral for empty beer bottles, marking it with a slab of concrete with the words “Here Lies Tradition, 1957”. This concrete slab is now brought out at every traditions event with student groups stealing it from each other.

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