Fat Bear Week, the seven days of the year when humanity comes together to celebrate just how much weight a bunch of Alaskan bears have packed on over previous months, is the finest holiday we have. Forget Halloween. Forget Thanksgiving. Only Fat Bear Week offers an opportunity for us to combine gambling, conservation, and staring at portly apex predators into a single event.
But it wasn’t always this way. Like a plucky little cub eating truckloads of salmon until it grows into a lumbering furry murder-blimp, Fat Bear Week needed time to develop fully into the impressive specimen it is now. In a new article, Mental Floss traced the evolution of the event from 2014's Fat Bear Tuesday to the weeklong festivities of the annual Weeks we have today.
The event’s founder (and Explore.org naturalist) Mike Fitz said that he’s long known “that bears were very charismatic creatures” and Fat Bear Week—inspired by a viewer comment about a bear’s seasonal growth—was meant to show that off to the rest of the world “in a fun way.” The 2014 Fat Bear Tuesday, like the modern version, helped promote Explore’s livestreams that show the bears of Katmai National Park And Reserve, Alaska as they hang out and hunt at Brooks Falls. Over time, the one-day event expanded into its current form, each year attracting more and more viewers as the gospel of chunky ursine tournaments spreads.
Now, because the full Week gets so much attention, Katmai National Park media ranger Naomi Boak has to start working on it as early as May, taking photos of skinny bears so each contestant’s gains can be properly showcased. “A good photograph can boost a contestant’s chances of winning,” the article explains, and that might entail following the bears around for weeks to fully capture their glory.
Boak points out that Fat Bear Week “[celebrates] something we normally don’t get to celebrate, which is fatness, and fatness as something good and positive, because the bears survive on their fat.” It also highlights the importance of nature conservation—bears, like The Rock, can’t bulk up without access to lots of fish, after all.
Now, its popularity greater than ever, the 2021 edition is introducing Fat Bear Jr., a two-day competition centered on bear cubs that will take place on September 23rd and 24th. As for who to watch in the regular tournament, Fitz points out that last year’s champ, bear 747, is “the largest bear I’ve ever seen” and that “his belly is already touching the ground.”
Stand in the rushing waters and snap up passing paragraphs of Fat Bear Week information by reading the full story here. This year’s celebrations, by the way, run from September 29th to October 5th. Get your bets in now.
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