|Crystal Plamondon cleans up the beat at the Celtic/Cajun workshop held as part of the Dawson City Music Festival. Photo by Dan Davidson|
Welcome to the August 6th edition of the online Klondike Sun. Our news stand edition went on sale on July 20 and was 24 pages long. It contained 36 pictures and 32 articles. as well as several cartoons and our regular crossword puzzle. You'll never see it all here, but welcome aboard anyway.
by Tara McCauley
Ah, another Dawson City Music Festival has come and gone and what a weekend! Like all Dawsonites have come to expect, it was a great party with excellent music.
What has always impressed me about Music Festival is its diverse range of musical acts and its appeal to all age groups. No matter what kind of music you're into, you can always find something that you'll like. In three days, about twenty different performers and groups performed in several venues including, Mainstage (the large tent in Minto Park), St. Paul's Anglican Church, St. Mary's Catholic Church, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Cultural Centre and the Band Hall.
It was impossible to see everything but most of my time was spent at the Mainstage where I took in such acts as: The Big Band Trio, Jivin' Orchestra, Diego Marulanda & Pacande on Friday; Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne on Saturday; and The Falcons, The Planet Smashers and The Mike Plume Band on Sunday.
The Big Band Trio and Jivin' Orchestra were great. They played a similar genre of music with a big band/swing feel but each produced a distinctive sound.
Diego Marulanda & Pacande hail from Toronto. They played Mainstage both Friday and Saturday night. This group of nine spiced things up with a great Latin American feel and a host of percussion instruments that kept the beat strong.
Saturday night, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne's band warmed the crowd up before he made his entrance. When the Blues Boss entered the stage with his bright coloured suit and hat the crowd went nuts. The crowd loved to groove to his Boogie Woogie keyboard stylistics. What impressed me was this man's easy-going, ultimately cool persona and his incredible stage presence.
The Planet Smashers were by far my favourite act of the festival. A ska band from Montreal, I was at first taken back by their apparent youth, but as soon as they started to play, the crowd got a scope of their musical ability. Their songs were upbeat and funny, including such titles as Super orgy porno party, Peed in an elevator, and All men are scared of women. The dance floor was packed. They were so involved with the crowd. Some of the band members would run out onto the dance floor to dance with the crowd; they held a dance competition and gave away some of their CD's, and brought audience members to the stage to sing. They were so full of energy and played with a passion for their music. The Planet Smashers were wicked fun.
The Mike Plume Band was great as well. Their style has been influenced by a number of musical genres that makes their music difficult to pin point. They played with somewhat of a rock/folk/country/alternative feel. As a band they seemed as if they had been playing together for years as they had a real feeling of togetherness as a band.
The Mike Plume Band finished things up Sunday night and then several members from other bands joined them on stage for the Finale.
Besides the concerts, there were also a number of workshops through out the days on many aspects of music including percussion, pitch, jazz, composition, and more. I caught the Perfect Pitch workshop on Sunday afternoon. With standing room only, it featured several performers including local talent Harmony Hunter, Patricia Henman, and Sandra Hall.
As small as the Dawson Music Festival is on the grand scale of music festivals, a music festival sub-culture has seemed to emerged as well. Besides the events organized by the Dawson City Music Festival Committee, a group from Whitehorse organized their own mini festival complete with concession stand and BBQ in Dawson last weekend.
Calling themselves Solid Ox, the group arrived in Dawson at the Overflow campground, playing out of the back of a transport truck. They were quickly shut down by the City when near-by residents complained of the noise. They then set up across the river in Tent City where they played until the wee hours of the morning on both Friday and Saturday night. Although they claimed to have informed the DCMF committee of their coming to the music festival, the committee insists they were not informed soon enough, leading to a bit of controversy over the whole issue.
At any rate, for those who weren't quite ready to stop grooving to the tunes at 2 a.m. when the Mainstage events finished, this provided an option. People seemed to enjoy the band which has been said to have formed only days before the festival. On Saturday night there were probably about 80 people at tent city dancing in the mud to the alternative sounds of Solid Ox. They wrapped things up at about 4 a.m. and the diehards partied on until 6 a.m.
And so, another Music Festival has sped by. Dawson suddenly seems tranquil as people are still basking in the memory of the weekend. You can't help but wonder what the folks at the Dawson City Music Festival have in store for us next year...
by Dan Davidson
The Dawson City Music Festival does what it can to make the weekend a family affair, so both Saturday and Sunday morning kick off with events for kids. It's up to their parents to be prepared to rise up and get then there.
Saturday is the more elaborate of the two days. Starting at 10 o'clock KidsFest settles down to about an hour of faced painting, balloon blowing, instrument making and T-shirt painting. Lots of local volunteers make sure that this is as much fun as possible, all the while getting the troops ready for the big finale just after 11.
The Han Dancers and Singers appear around then and, with great banging of drums and loud chanting, welcome the youngsters to the festival. Then the parade begins, weaving in and out of the tables and around the enclosed beer garden area until Brian Work on his unicycle has led everyone into the main stage tent.
Then the Kid's Concert begins, with Work and Phil Radomsky providing a full menu of juggling, unicycle tricks, fire-eating and magic.
Sunday has a Family Concert at 11 a.m. with some of the same elements along with some music and dancing.
by Dan Davidson
Funny things happen to secular musicians when they play in churches. They suddenly start editing themselves. All those little asides, some of which might be scatological or a bit off-colour, stand out in a way they never do in a bar or in the main stage tent.
It's amusing when something pops out. Suddenly there's a pause in the patter, the musician looks back in the direction of the stained glass window depicting Christ, gets a little sheepish, and then apologizes to "Whoever" might be listening.
Never mind. It's good to pay attention to the words as they come out, and maybe even plan them in advance instead of relying on clichés. That's the advantage of the mini-concerts at the Dawson City Music Festival; you get to hear exactly what people are trying to present to you.
Mikel Miller presents a country tinged set of tunes - some his, some by others, ably assisted by Marg Tatum on cello (really) and fiddle and by Amanda Leslie (taking a night off from the Frantic Follies) on vocals. There's some funny stuff, some sad, some light and some in between. The audience would like more, but emcee John Steins has to keep the encores to a minimum tonight - something about the RCMP, he says.
Danny Michel is up next. Danny was last here as Gwen Swick's guitarist, but he has a fine line of material all his own, which he presents with a kind of little boy charm and insouciance. If a word isn't right there, he waits for it with a little grin and makes it seem like it was intended to be that way.
Not too many songwriters offhandedly expect you to know that Claude Raines played the Invisible Man in the movie of that name or that Wallace Hartly conducted the band on the Titanic, but Michel throws all these asides into his lyrics.
The Paul McLeod-Danny Michel festival reunion continues at Saint Paul's with the two of them converting an old David Bowie/Queen hit to the venue and then encoring with an impromptu rendition of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" in which you can finally hear every word after all these years.
For something totally different along comes the Alsek Jazz Quartet. Annie Avery, Duncan Sinclair, Anne Turner and Ken Searcy have discovered jazz this year putting their group together for the Alsek festival in Haines Junction and then bringing it here. They're having so much fun swapping solos and jiving the beats that they surely regret they hadn't discovered it all sooner, but now's better than never. Avery can hardly stop smiling during the entire set - bliss at the keyboard.
Yes, there's an encore, but the concert still manages to finish up pretty close to when it's supposed to.
by Dan Davidson
No doubt most of the 126 participants in the 23rd annual Canadian Airlines International Dome Race were happy that the morning of July 24 was cool by July standards.
The early contingent of 31 walkers stepped off up King Street to Mary McLeod Road and on to the Dome Road at 9:30. Many of them then would have been passed by the second crowd, the 95 runners who stepped up to the line for the starting signal at 10 o'clock, but some of the fastest walkers still beat the time of a respectable number of runners, so no one should think of the Dome Race as an easy stroll.
It's 7.3 kilometres from the starting line in front of the Palace Grand Theatre to the finishing line on the top of the Midnight Dome. In addition to that, participants climb 565 metres along the way, on grades that make most vehicles shift down several times. There are people in Dawson who walk it regularly for pleasure, but not that many.
After the run, folks have the rest of the day to enjoy the music festival before heading out to the Trans North chopper pad for the salmon and hamburger barbecue. At the hanger, posted print-outs tell the story of previous runs, and people spend a lot of time comparing past results and sharing horror stories while waiting for the 1999 times to be posted.
Chefs Akio Saito, Denny Kobayashi and Dick Van Nostrand serve up the goodies quite quickly and it's soon time for the awards. These are presented by emcee David Millar (who came 15th in the masters category) and Celeste Michon (events coordinator for the Klondike Visitors Association, who didn't have time to run the race this year).
Junior Female - 2 runners
1st - Angela Code - 59:33
2nd - Palvina Sudrich - 1:02:20
Junior male - 4 runners
1st - Graham Nishikawa - 38:28
2nd - Rodney Hulstein - 40:38
3rd - Michael Code - 42:00
Master female - 5 runners
1st - Donna Dunn - 45:21
2nd - Esther Austring - 50:52
3rd - Donna Jones - 51:08
Master male - 25 runners
1st - Don White - 37:26
2nd - Billy Matiation - 38:10
3rd - Brendan Hanley - 39:02
Open female - 33 runners
1st - Tamara Goeppel - 38:35
2nd - Lactitia Mouchet - 42:11
3rd - Melanie Mott - 44:47
Open male - 26 runners
1st - Stephen Waterreus - 33:48
2nd - Paul Michel - 37:11
3rd - Dallas Eng - 38:10
Walkers - 31 participants (male and female)
1st - Sue McDunn - 1:01:16
2nd - Bill Dunn - 1:05:42
3rd - Dianne Canning - 1:07:58
After all the big and little gold pans have been handed out and the door prizes awarded, the evening draws to a swift close, just in time for people to get back into town for the second night of the music festival.
Starting this Friday, Dawson is the place to be (so what else is new?) for the weekend and this brief outline of events will tell you why.
Friday, August 13, 1999
Gazebo on Front Street
Welcome from Special Guests
Tr'ondek Hwech'in Singers & Drummers
BBQ -Gazebo on Front Street
Great Landers Show Band
Ball Tournament Starts Minto Park
Klondike Jamboree - Hockey Arena
Bands: McFano, Straight Clean & Simple, Doug & The Slugs
Saturday, August 14, 1999
9:00 AM -Noon
Ball Tournament - Minto Park
Pancake Breakfast in Hockey Arena
Dawson City Curling Club
9:00 AM -3:00 PM -Minto Park
Horticultural & Handcraft Exhibition
Registration: 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Judging: 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Open to Public: 12:30 PM to 3:00 PM
Pick Up Displays: 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Run Dawson Ridge Road Relay
Registration: 9:00 @ Gazebo
Start Time: 10:00 AM Callison
Discovery Festival Parade
Start at Visitor Reception Centre
Front Street -Queen St -5th Ave. - Minto Park
12:30 PM - Minto Park
Klondike Kids Games
Ring Toss - Fish Pond - Pony Rides
Face Painting - Races
Tug Of-War Challenge
Stew and Bannock Concession
1:00 -3:00 PM
Klondike Jamboree -Free Kids Concert
Hockey Arena -Free Pop & Chips for the Kids
Sunday, August 15, 1999
9:00 AM -Noon
Dawson City Curling Club
In the Hockey Arena
Keno Interpretive Tour
1:00 PM -3:00 PM -North End
Klondike Krunch Demolition Derby
2:00 PM -4:00 PM
Parks Canada Celebration at Discovery Claim Interpretation
Rocker Box Demonstration
Learn How to Stake a Claim
14.8 on Bonanza Road
2:00 PM - 6:00 PM
NMI Mobility Yukon River Bathtub Race
Finish at Waterfront
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Closing Ceremonies -Gazebo on Front Street
Great Landers Show Band
Women's Shelter BBQ
For Information Call 993-7400 or 993-1996
Discovery Festival Parade
August 14, 1999
Start Time: 12:00 Noon from the VRC on Front Street
Line up and Judging: 11:00 AM on York
Parade Route: VRC Front Street - Queen Street - 5th Avenue
Crowd to Follow to Minto Park for Festivities
Kids Bike Decorating: 1st $25.00 2nd $15.00 3rd $10.00 -Every Entrant Receives $2.00 Sponsored by the Pioneer Women.
Business: 1st $400.00 - 2nd $200.00 - 3rd $100.00
Personal Entry: 1st $400.00 - 2nd $200.00 - 3rd $100.00
Organization: 1st $400.00 - 2nd $200.00 - 3rd $100.00
Special Awards - Judges Choice 1st $400.00 - 2nd $200.00 - 3rd $100.00
Another bus in town is nothing new for Dawson in summer. However, on July 8th a special bus arrived laden with unusual cargo in its bays. Amidst tents, sleeping bags, and gear were palm trees and a treasure chest. There were seashells and shovels, helium balloons and hammers, chocolate eggs and chain saws. Ready to sort this out were twenty-five excited teens and chaperones from Three Hills, Alberta. Under the direction of youth pastor Dustin Verreault, the group from Mt. Olive Evangelical Free Church had spent the winter amassing these treasures while fund raising, planning, and preparing for their two-week mission to enrich the lives of the children of Dawson.
Saturday, July 10, saw part of the team kicking off their children's ministry with a beach party. The parking lot of Community Gospel Chapel was transformed into tropical paradise with lollipop trees and sand castles. It was an afternoon of tropical treats, games, and fun for children ages 4 through 12, who received invitations to return for more good times at Vacation Bible School. Thirty-seven enthusiastic children registered to go to "Sonlight Island" throughout the week, learning about loving one another and God's love for them as they learned the principles of love from 1 Corinthians 13. The culminated in parent's night on Friday. Flash bulbs snapped continuously throughout the evening as the children presented a musical performance amidst the beautifully constructed tropical setting the team had made.
Meanwhile, the other part of the team was involved in the upgrade of Kamp Klondike at Rock Creek. The camp that has touched the lives of many Dawson children in its nearly twenty year existence is getting a major face lift. The main part of the camp is being moved across the creek, enlarged to facilitate the ever-increasing number of children attending each summer. The team worked at clearing and cleaning the area retaining as much of the wilderness setting as possible, and upgrading the game facilities. The biggest project, aided by men from Community Gospel Chapel, was construction of the new kitchen/dining complex. In addition to settling the ATCO kitchen in place, they began construction of the adjoining dining hall. This thirty foot wide six sided structure will not only provide camper comfort, but also greater flexibility in camp use.
Whether leading a Congo line, digging up a stubborn root, or raising the side of a building, the team members were enthusiastic about their time in Dawson. They met unexpected challenges with grace and felt a strong bonding with the children they had come to serve. Some expressed a desire to return as camp counselors or to work in other camp ministries in the future. Those who had the privilege of visiting Sonlight Island, and those who will benefit from their hard work at Kamp Klondike, will want to keep an eye out for that special bus coming into Dawson.
by Fr. John Tyrrell
St. Paul's Anglican Pro-Cathedral
Bishop Terry Buckle and the Church leaders have invited all Tron'dek Hwech'in First Nation Anglicans to gather at Moosehide on the weekend of the 21st & 22nd of August to join in conversations regarding the faith and the life of the Church.
The gathering will include worship in St. Barnabas Church, singing, sharing, and conversations about the faith and the state of the Church in the lives of the members present and the Church in general.
Chief and Council have kindly made available the common meeting areas and kitchen facilities for this time together. The gathering will begin at 10 am Saturday and end Sunday afternoon after the final worship service. Participants should bring food to share at meal times and those with boats are asked to help others get there and back. For further information, please contact Percy Henry or Fr. John Tyrrell.
Every year we are deluged with statistics indicating that Yukoners drink and smoke more than other Canadians, and that Dawson leads the Yukon pack. We often wonder if these stats are at all true, or if they aren't skewed by our summer influx of visitors. This same topic came up for discussion in the Yukon Legislature on Wednesday, April 28, 1999. Here's that discussion, courtesy of the YTG's Hansard website Mr. Jenkins is the MLA for the Klondike. Mr. Fairclough is the Minister in charge of the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other concerns that has been expressed on a regular basis is our per capita consumption of the product sold by the Liquor Corporation, and it's based on the Yukon stats as to our population. Has any consideration been given, Mr. Chair, to factoring in - because the greatest number of sales occur after the Christmas / New Year's peak. They occur during the summer season.
Given our large visitor influx during that time, has any consideration been given to factor in the influx of visitors to this formula, so that we don't look like we're spending half our lives sitting on barstools in the Yukon? Because that is not the case. Yes, there are abuses, but overall I think there's an injustice being done to Yukoners in portraying us as having the highest per capita consumption of a lot of these products, when these numbers are skewed by the influx to our population in the summer months, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: That hasn't been taken into account in any serious way, when the stats do come out, but I'm informed by my deputy here that they have been discussing this in trying to find a formula that they can use to bring it in as part of the statistics, when they do come out - what alcohol is consumed by Yukoners. So it's being worked on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the NDP has some excellent spin doctors upstairs; I'm sure we can come up with a formula that'd work pretty quick. So I can't see what is going to take a great deal of time, because the way that the stats come out, Yukoners are portrayed as sitting at a bar stool for an inordinate amount of time, and that, Mr. Chair, is certainly not the case.
And when you start looking at the influx to the population and other regions of Canada - our visitor influx - if you look at British Columbia, you can see a pretty steady pattern, except for a couple of dips in the spring and the fall. So there's not a significant increase in their per capita consumption of alcoholic products.
But up here the number of individuals who visit our area in basically a 100- or 120-day season, boy, that certainly skews the numbers.
Could I ask the minister just how far away we are from factoring in visitors into this formula, and portraying a true picture of what is actually going on, on a per capita consumption, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It is in the very early stage of being looked at. I'm told that we could have something in place in the fall.
Mr. Jenkins: This is something that has been known for quite some time, and it's always amazed me why it hasn't been addressed before this point, Mr. Chair. I know other jurisdictions do it. They compile these statistics, and I think it would bode well for the Yukon to portray ourselves in a much more favourable light than what we are currently doing. Why it's taken this long is simply amazing, but if we can see some results produced by this fall, I'll look forward to having them presented.
So, I understand that I do have the commitment from the minister that we'll have some results by this fall or some indication as to how it's going to be done, or will we have a definitive response by this fall? The process, the minister explained, is that we'll have something this fall. What will we have this fall?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, hopefully what we would have in the fall is basically what is the real consumption of Yukoners in the current year and in previous years.
by Dan Davidson
When Tom Byrne thinks about the life and work of Robert Service he finds messages for living there. "The Quitter" has long been a staple of his long running Robert Service show, and he never delivers the poem without prefacing it with a little homily about its meaning.
"The Quitter" comes form Service's third collection of verses, Rhymes of a Rolling Stone, material he wrote while living in the little log cabin on 8th Avenue where Byrne spent his summers from 1979 to 1998.
Perhaps it had its origins in the years that the poet spent as a vagabond, before he succumbed to the lure of a steady pay cheque and returned to the banking life he had given up when he first came to North America.
Perhaps he was thinking of the difficult lives revealed in the stories of the old timers, the hangers on from whom he soaked up so much gold rush era lore a decade after the event.
For Tom Byrne it's about keeping on, no matter what. It ends with these words:
"And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try - it's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping-on-living that's hard."
Tom Byrne is no quitter. When Klondike National Historic Sites posted the tender for the Robert Service Cabin concessionaire's position at the end of last season, it contained changes that Byrne decided he couldn't live with, so he didn't put in a bid.
When we chat after his afternoon performance one day in early July he says he doesn't regret the decision. He's renting space in Chris Sorg's properties on Front Street, in a row of imitation gold rush storefronts that also features a video store, summer shop, ice cream shop and restaurant.
The room is spacious, lit in part by a skylight that casts some real sunshine on the cabin set where Byrne sits to deliver his show. Pictures and prints from Arts Gallery decorate the walls, and Byrne's chair sits on a small riser in front of some red velvet curtains. If it weren't for the fact that the actual cabin Service lived in still sits on 8th Avenue, this location would be ideal.
"I should have moved the show indoors years ago," he tells me, recalling days of chill rain and burning sun up at the cabin. The ends of the season (early June and late August) were nearly always uncomfortable as he recalls them. He'd often thought about just doing a show at the cabin when the weather was good, but it didn't go with the contract.
He admits that his audiences are modest compared to what he's used to, but he's getting by. Regulars, some of whom come to see the show annually, have complained that they didn't know where he was, and it's true, he did miss the advertising deadlines when he organized this new venue. He thinks it will pick up as his location gets to be known. He even ended up adding a banner that reads "Starring Tom Byrne" to the front of his little theatre so folks would know which Robert Service Show this was.
He's not fighting with Charlie Davis, the man who won the three year contract he used to hold, though he's still mad at Parks Canada. Off the record, people at KNHS still maintain that it was his decision, not theirs, and that a Byrne bid, had there been one, would have been a strong contender.
There were sparks in the community and stories in the territorial press when he announced that he wasn't going to be at the cabin for 1999. The potential for controversy made it to the national stage when Saturday Night magazine published interviews with both Byrne and his successor, Davis, in the April 1999 issue. It continued on into June when another former cabin concessionaire, Conrad Boyce, wrote a letter to the magazine in response to the article. (For all of this, see the Klondike Sun of June 22, 1999, or the Saturday Night web site at "www.saturdaynight.ca")
Some wondered if this might not be the summer which featured competing versions of the Robert Service experience shooting it out somewhere in the middle of town. But that hasn't happened.
Byrne still delivers a great show, and markets his product live, on audio tape and CD as well as on videotape. He refers to the cabin as part of his presentation, knowing that true Service fans will want to go and look at it later.
For the tourists, well, it just means twice the Service, and that's surely not a bad thing.
by Dan Davidson
The Dawson City Museum's budget is nearly $150,000 richer this week thanks to a recently confirmed approval of grant money from the Heritage Branch's Museums Assistance Program. The Hon. David Keenan, Minister of Tourism, approved grants for seven different projects, totalling $149,700.
The most visible of the projects is the new artifact storage area currently under construction as an addition to the locomotive shelter just at the right of the Museum building. That began last year, financed by part of a $275,000 donation from the Gold Rush pioneer Lind family of Toronto.
The new space, museum director Paul Thistle explained, is to allow for two things. The biggest part of the building will be for mobile storage shelf units to house a greater part of the museum's enormous collection of artifacts. getting these out of the storage area in the main building will fee that up for other sorts of activities and displays.
Part of the extension will be an actual addition to the train storage shelter, so that several historic wagons and pieces of machinery can be moved off the lawn and under shelter to prevent their further deterioration.
The Museum has obtained $25,000 from the Museums Exhibit Development Programme to assist in the conservation and restoration of its four steam locomotives. Work on these pieces has been going on since they were moved under shelter a number of years ago, but this season will see them mounted on rails and raised above possible water damage.
The metal portions of the engines are being preserved and painted, while the badly damaged wooden portions are being rebuilt. Since 1999 is the centennial of the granting of the federal charter to construct the Klondike Mines Railway, Thistle sees this as an appropriate time to do this work.
The Museum does other activities which are not quite so obvious.
"Among these," Thistle says, " is the process of keeping complete and accurate records on artifacts and other items as they are added to the ... collection. A heritage object s only as valuable as the information connected with it."
The work of compiling these records is known as registration, and some of the grant money will go to support this activity.
Additionally, the Museum has many photographs which need to be copied for its collection. There is a backlog of 840 or more, which donors have loaned the Museum on the understanding that they will get them back.
Donors may allow the Museum to keep their originals in return for a good print, or they may simply allow the Museum to take a copy of their originals. The collection has grown to more than 4,800 items over the years, but it takes time and staff to get the work done.
The final major item is once more not terribly visible, but it will be of great use to those wanting to access the Museum's resources. This will be a computer database containing information from the Museum's research files.
"This," Thistle says, "will allow genealogists and other researchers to make more effective use of the Museum's existing files, For example, the database of gold rush stampeders and their descendants will be searchable by computer to allow the Museum to provide faster and more efficient services to all those who use our records for research."
"I come from Manitoba," says Thistle, who took up the director's post in May. "I have to say that, compared to there, so far this is heritage heaven as far as I'm concerned, in terms of the funds that are available." He also lauds the Heritage Department for making its staff available to help with projects and provide expertise."
The projects being funded will, he says, enable the Dawson City Museum to continue offering and improving its strong exhibit and public research service record.
by Palma Berger
"Hello, Herr Bittner." Wolfgang Bittner was surprised to hear himself addressed in German on Front Street in Dawson City. After all, his home is in Cologne, Germany, and who would know him here? He turned to find two young men loaded with huge knapsacks and grinning at him. "Don't you remember us?" Ah, of course, the two young men had been students in a high school where he was giving a slide and lecture presentation on the Yukon several years ago. They had been enthralled by his stories and had determined to come here themselves. These are not the only young people in Germany getting a love of the Yukon.
Bittner has been experiencing the Yukon and writing about it. In the Dawson area he has stayed down river with fishermen Cor Guimond, Kennedy, and Sebastion Jones. Drawing on these experiences he has written adventure books with their settings in the Yukon. They are much enjoyed by the teens in Germany.
So far he has written four books with settings in the Yukon. The first "Tracks of the Grey Bear" came out of a magazine assignment. He was sent to the Yukon to write on people surviving in the bush in the north. But as it turned our the group were in the midst of one big argument. and it was not a happy enough setting for a magazine article, but he thought it would be a good setting for a story. Thus "Tracks of the Grey Bear" was written.
Wolfgang Bittner is an established author with 30 books to his credit. His education had lead him into law, where he achieved a Doctorate of Law, and was on the path to becoming a judge when he realized that the atmosphere of court was not really to his liking. He turned to studying philosophy and sociology. Then he began to write articles for magazines. He discovered poems and stories he had written when he was ten and then put aside. The interest in writing had always been there.
He published articles and stories in magazines and wrote for radio. This free-lance writing became such a successful business that he turned to writing full-time. He went on to become a screen writer for one of the books being made into a film.
He always had been fascinated by our North country, so when the offer came from a magazine to come here, he was most happy to come. That was about fifteen years ago.. He has come back about twelve times since, always in the summer, and always gathering more material for writing.
His books are published by Bertelsmann one of the largest publishing houses in the world. Not all of his writings from his summer visits are adventure stories. Last year he published a book of poems, titled "Baerland" ("Land of Bears") containing poems of the north. The last poem "Nordland" being the longest and captures the spirit and history of the Yukon.
His other books on the North are "Down the Big Salmon River" which has a 19 year old youth, Steven, as the hero, who has adventures with his Scottish friend David. This has a murderer, R.C.M.P., helicopter and mistaken identity to hold the reader. The third novel was "Salmon Fisherman of the Yukon". The next was "Narrengold" (Fool's Gold). This time Steve is working at a gold mine near Atlin and involves a First Nation family who live there. These four books are in paperback and are doing very well.
This year he has returned to writing a novel for adults, in which an embezzler escapes to Dawson to try to start life anew. This has a philosophical and social background.
In the Yukon, Wolfgang Bittner has walked the path of the old telegraph line to Eagle, has canoed from Whitehorse to Dawson, explored around Watson Lake, and has willingly left his comfortable apartment in Cologne to come to the Yukon to experience Yukon life close up.
Back in Germany he is a member of the worldwide organization PEN. He is a director on the Board of the Association of German writers. The latter is why he was really impressed with the idea of Dawson's writer's residence, the Berton house.
Asked him if he enjoys the life and he replies, "It is great. I enjoy my job. I can travel. I am my own boss. I can shut my office door and go to the Yukon for three months every year."
by Iris Warner
Flo Whyard's article in The Klondike Sun entitled 'Remembering the uprising of 30 years ago'[Tuesday 27 April] picked up on the discovery at the Dawson Museum of a mysterious document that looked like a war bond. Well, it was and I have several more, relics of a curious battle that began 34 years ago. Still unresolved, it is an illustration of the careless attitude of Canadians who let others ride roughshod over our own history even in our own country.
I would remind you of a lovely land up yonder that is all our own. Or is it? Tucked in between great mountain ranges it is watered by a world-class river whose side streams are the stuff of legends And there's the rub. One of these is named Klondike with a watershed of its own encompassing more than 100 square miles in which almost every small stream continues to give up placer gold even as it did during the Klondike stampede in 1898. Since then, the gravels have gotten turned over and chewed up some by prospectors using gold pans and other-working dredges but still the Klondike draws delighted visitors. Many drive up or fly in, but others are content to follow the old timers and drift by canoe or raft down the Yukon river for 400 miles for the chance to step ashore at the most fascinating destination in the world, Dawson City, home of the Klondike in the Yukon Territory. It is home too for a fine lot of people many of whom became incensed when Edmonton began to stretch its credibility to the utmost with its newest theme, named Klondike Days.
I had become the latest in a string of reporters sending Dawson news weekly to The Whitehorse Star and on March 1, 1964 attended the dinner meeting of the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA), at the Occidental Hotel, whose members and guests began planning advertising and entertainments for the season. Its president, businessman Tim Cole, introduced the evening's speaker, Jack Gibson, director of publicity and travel for the Yukon.
Already, the meeting had recognized and discussed the usurious twist on history introduced by Edmonton with its Klondike Days. When Gibson said, "Tourist dollars are an important source of income and everyone wants a little to be left in his neck of the woods, he was preaching to the converted. Adding that any sort of publicity must have impact and originality to compete in the world market, he explained how Canada attracts tourists north of the border or over the seas. That the Yukon Travel Bureau persuades them to keep on going while Alaska urges them onwards and upwards. Once a tourist reaches Whitehorse, the Canada and Yukon travel bureaus can relax, confident that their advertising was successful. However, as there are two roads to Alaska with one (the Alaska Highway) part of the regular highway system, the merits of the other must be emphasized if Dawson City is to gather tourist dollars to her saucy bosom.~
Gibson said that he was very pleased with the increasing awareness of the KVA of the value of advertising; that KVA was reaching outside to bring people to Dawson to enjoy their presentations of Klondike Nights and the Dawson City gold rush atmosphere. He said Klondike Nights continue to provide the most fun for the most people.
For instance, in Ottawa there was a lively Springtime Party with Pierre Berton and Judy LaMarshe among notables in a glorified "Shooting of Dan McGrew". While, in Hong Kong, a celebration was staged by the Canadian Club there, with a great deal of assistance from the Yukon Travel Bureau who, tongue-in-cheek, sent gold pans and other gold rush bric-a-brac, along with copies of "Squaws Along The Yukon" to add a northern note to a southern party. These were one-time events.
At the same time, he noted, "Edmonton, in Alberta, on the main arteries of the world with thousands of people and some early traditions of its own, still sees fit to corral as much Klondike atmosphere as possible. This could be considered good advertising for the Yukon, for the Klondike and for Dawson City - but applied too heavily, it might easily persuade visitors that Edmonton's Klondike is a darn sight better, and closer, than that godforsaken town far away. [Dawson Diary 2 March 1964]
Only a week later there was sufficient concern arising among townspeople that I sent in a column entitled "The Only Original Klondike Carries the Dawson City Label Accept No Substitutes" that ended with - travel the extra miles north to the real Klondike.[Dawson Diary 9 March 1964]
That year there was a flood, not on the scale of the big one in '79, but presenting at least some of the same difficulties for residents. (Ed Note: Iris's short story and many photos of the 1964 flood will be run here next issue.)
It was also remembered for the arrival of a representative of the Edmonton Exhibition Association [EEA] Reg Easton, who urged people, many of whom had done their stint on the dike shovelling sand into the 11,000-plus Canvas bags brought in to hold back the rising waters of the Yukon river, to meet with him at the school.
Since people in Dawson always have extended a helping hand to friends and visitors alike, they were persuaded to attend. At that time, we learned the plans of the EEA to promote further its Klondike Days theme. our lack of enthusiasm finally drew the comment," I came here in good faith, but we will go ahead with or without your involvement.' And then he listed a few things he'd like.
My column in July set them out. It said: "From June 10, when helpful members of the KVA took time away from filling sandbags to meet with Mr. Reg Easton from Edmonton, right through the hectic weeks of flood recovery and summer preparations, to Wednesday July 1 when gravel was bagged at Jackson's Tailings and an original sourdough 'starter'(for pancakes) was squeezed into a Wells Fargo iron chest for the long trip outside, the people of Dawson have worked hard to assist the Edmonton Exhibition Association in preparation for their Klondike Days. Film has been shot, for TV viewing, snapshots taken for news releases, cheesecake lined up for promotion - of the Edmonton Klondike.
"It is to be hoped that visitors are intrigued, rather than satisfied, with the prairie Klondike, and make their way farther north to see the original.
"Edmonton was once touted as the Gateway to the North-Open Sesame!" [Dawson Diary 6 July 1964]
Instead, Dawson's Klondike Nights was usurped. It became Edmonton's Klondike Days, and the name was copyrighted. Even Dawson's dance hall girl logo was lost to greed, being copyrighted and added to Edmonton's Klondike Days advertising.
In Dawson, there was a feeling of dismay and disappointment at the increasing promotion of Klondike Days. It rankled, particularly, when visitors mentioned, "We nearly didn't come this way. We had already stopped off at Edmonton to see Klondike Days and then when we got to the turn-off to Dawson from the Alaska Highway decided to come anyway. I'm sure glad we did. This is the real thing! "
Then in 1966 I moved with my family to Whitehorse where I met up with other Dawsonites, like Tim Cole, with plans to raise an opposition to the Klondike Days promotion. By then, two less-than-profitable tourist seasons had illustrated to Yukon businessmen and the government's travel office that the financial losses were due largely to the effect of Klondike Days. Whereupon, the Yukon Klondike Defence Force [YKDF] was formed, with John Lamont, chairman; Bea McLeod, office manager: Yukon-boosters Roy Minter of the White Pass & Yukon Route, and members of the territorial council, George Shaw of Dawson and Don Taylor, Watson Lake, and myself.
An office was opened on Main street and press releases went out in all directions, reinforced with handsome membership certificates, the war bonds, that returned a dollar apiece to the minuscule defence fund.
Newspaper publishers, Bob Erlam of The Whitehorse Star, and Ken Shortt, The Yukon News, the Star's doughty editor, Flo Whyard, and outside columnists including Bruce West of The Globe & Mail, Toronto' ["Stolen Heritage" Thursday 12 May 1966] were supportive. Their editorial and related material served to remind Yukoners that there really was a reason for all this fuss.
It was unfortunate that there were Dawson people who felt that the Yukon Klondike Defence Force had nothing to do with the Klondike. They were still at odds over the government's transfer of the territorial capital from Dawson to Whitehorse in 1953; when the Edmonton Exhibition Association offered flights and hotels and Klondike Days entertainments, they took advantage of the free ride. That they were serving the EEA by joining in, supporting their gimmick, did not occur to, or bother them.
The passing years have shown even those doubters that there really is a financial reason for Edmonton latching onto the Klondike image. That the dollars garnered by Alberta likely could have made bells ring in Dawson tills.
Then, in 1970, despite a strong membership the meeting of February 17th pretty well wound things up. As Roy Minter said, "The Yukon Klondike Defence Force is a pretty small unit with a monstrous problem." It was noted that however willing, the Yukon administration cannot do much in support because it needs Ministerial approval. "Since there is no official pressure," someone said, "the bleatings of the Klondike Defence Force sound like sour grapes."
The news that Edmonton was about to launch a Klondike village a la Disney and do its utmost to squeeze every crumb to promote its phony Klondike out of the Yukon, was met with dismay. One member said, "It's a hell of a note when you have to think of copyrighting your own place."
Roy Minter said, "This matter is bigger than Yukon and deals with areas right across Canada. What is needed is a National Historic Resources Act, in light of the marketable value of the tourist industry."
After discussion, it was moved by Tim Cole, seconded by Bea McLeod and passed, that the Klondike Defence Force strongly recommends that there be a Federal Historic Resources Act that clearly protects areas which we in the Klondike Defence Force term a major marketable resource.
There it remains. It would seem that Edmonton has been the winner. The Yukon's department of tourism can say the territory has lost tourist dollars. Yet, the Klondike remains. It is still here for the enjoyment of Yukoners who have the gold, and for the others not ready to settle for dross. Still absent, however, is 'Ministerial support' to deal with such challenges to Canadian sovereignty which can be seen to offend, even inside our own country.
by Dan Davidson
After four days of intermittent drizzle punctuated by occasional pouring rain and ground fog that lasts until mid-morning, it would not be precipitous to say that the edge is off the fire danger in the Dawson area.
The Monday morning fire meeting on July 26 revealed that the Klondike is moving into what DIAND's Shane Petry called the "patrol, mop-up and demob" (demobilization) phase of operations.
The last two fire crews from British Columbia are on their way out of town early this week. Paul McBay's overhead crew from Ontario will be gone by Wednesday and control of the local situation will devolve back to the Dawson office.
Resources in the area will also decline this week as firefighters depart. By Friday there will be about 80 people working on fires here, and the number of helicopters in the area will have dropped from 15 to 5.
Last week brought only two new fire starts, numbers 28 and 29. Both were from natural causes. One was in the observation zone and the other was worked by an initial attack crew and water bombers.
Fire number 2 still has a fair number of hot spots that need to be dealt with, but the most exciting things out there in the last week was the morning they returned to the site to find a bear had destroyed a pump. Fires 4 and 6, south of town, are reported to be in good shape.
Fire number 7, originally the fire that caused the most concern to the community, has a solid perimeter but remains hot on the inside. This is the fire which will be worked until it is completely extinguished.
Damp weather here has kept the fire danger down but has actually made it more difficult to get out to the field and do the work. Crews overnighting in the fire zone have nearly been cold enough to worry about hypothermia, and requests for dry tents, clothes, etc., have been mounting.
Infrared scanning of the fires for hot spots is badly thrown off by this weather. Moisture on the lenses of the equipment masks the heat signatures and moisture on the ground causes the heat to dissipate. This doesn't put out the smoldering fire, but it makes it harder to find.
McBay said that conditions over the last four days have cost the crews as much as 2 1/2 days of effective work.
The fm emergency broadcasts have ended and fire chief Pat Cayen is returning the equipment to Whitehorse. The Urban-Wildfire Interface committee, which originally met daily, scaled back to every other day last week and decided on July 26 to meet weekly unless something comes up.
With all of that said, it seems safe to report that the emergency period is over.
by Dan Davidson
From the air Ancient Voices Wilderness Camp stands out abruptly now. It's a U-shaped patch of green surrounded by scorch and burn marks, the orange of flame killed spruce and fire retardant and the black of more thoroughly burned areas.
When the fire called Dawson #6 made its run to the Yukon River on July 7, it spilled neatly around Ancient Voices and stopped at the water, leaving a piece of shoreline and valley relatively untouched by the conflagration all around.
This was no accident. It didn't happen without a lot of work during the peak threat period and a lot of planning ahead of time. And the fire experts at DIAND are laying a lot of the credit on the Kormendy family, who own and operate the popular attraction.
Ancient Voices is the brainchild of Marge and Peter Kormendy. Over the last four years they have been developing the site, which they have "dedicated to honouring First Nations' heritage" (wording from their web site at www.yukon.net/business/Dawson/AncientVoices/Home.html)
David Milne, the Fire Prevention Coordinator with DIAND, has been raving about the amount of advance work done by the operators of Ancient Voices since the first contact on this story. He and outside consultant Brad Armitage (a fire risk assessment specialist) are at Ancient Voices on July 16 with this reporter to look at an example of a site that could be and was protected when it needed to be.
The Kormendys had already taken chain saws and axes to the area in a big way, clearing out the brush that used to come right up to the structures that remained from the 1970's bush homestead, hacking the limbs off the spruce so that they did not trail on the ground. In short, they had, since taking over the place, done their best to clear it and make it safer, a lesson that Peter says he learned from his grandfather, who lived at Moosehide.
Milne laments the number of bush dwellers who will "let the forest grow right up to the cabin walls." It's just asking for trouble, he says. He also likes the tin roofs on the cabins at Ancient Voices. Cedar shakes and sod with vegetation growing out of it are much harder to work with. Asphalt shingles are even worse.
"We need something called defensible space," says Milne. "We need room for crews and equipment to take a stand against fire. If there isn't room, like we have here, then many times we can't do anything about it."
The other possibility is that the fire crew will have to waste time making preparations with the perimeter they want to protect. Here they were able to go right to work.
"This is a success story," Milne says, "and sure the fire crews did good work here, but...the single most important reason that this facility is protected is because of the work the Kormendys did themselves."
It was on July 2 that the Marge and Peter Kormendy knew they might be in trouble. They arrived to find one of their employees already hosing down buildings just in case.
"When we got here Peter took the guys and the chain saws and went in and started the fire line. That's when I called Mike (Collie) and told him the fire was coming.
"We knew we were in trouble, and the first thing they asked us was if we had the means to evacuate.
"I said, 'We're not going anywhere. We're not going down without a fight. We've just put our whole life into this.'
"Mike realized that we were serious as well and said he would have a team out here first thing in the morning. And he did."
The next day served up a massive "wind event", as firefighters termed it, and Fire #6 made itself at home. The Yukon fire team arrived to take over the cutting and extended the fire guard in a wide U-shaped swath around the camp, lining the guard with hoses and sprinklers.
Relative humidity is a key concept in this setting. The fire guard was raised to an RH factor about 67% by the network of hoses and sprinklers. At that RH, says local DIAND firefighter, Shane Petry, it's hard for anything other than a fire in the crowns of the trees to get a foothold.
"We put in a lot of 18 hour days in the last two weeks," Peter Kormendy says as he stands at the bottom of the fire break with DIAND Fire Prevention Coordinator David Milne and consultant Brad Armitage.
The number of trees cut down to block the fire's path is quite impressive. The line marches down one hill and up the next as far as the eye can see.
Says Peter, "Two weeks ago I didn't have a stick of wood to burn and now I've got more than I know what to do with."
"This," he says, gesturing to the north with a chuckle, "is my new snow boarding hill." He got that idea from his son, Alex.
Marge Kormendy recalls that the fire made its big move the next Wednesday.
"We knew that the fire would come in from that point and go down the valley, because the wind always comes in from that direction every day at 2 o'clock. They were hoping, of course, that we did enough in advance to have it split, which it did.
"Then it just blazed around us - which I'm still having nightmares about."
And the fire did get close. It's a five minute walk back through the trees to the fire guard from the buildings, and the fire was on the other side. It's only a few kilometres to the hills around the camp, and there are trees singed along the crown of those hills, though they remain mostly green. Part of the action plan was to hold the fire on the far sides of those hills to minimize risk, and that was done.
Shane Petry refers to it as a good test. From planning to allocation of resources to the actual implementation of the plan, everything worked at Ancient Voices. The day the fire actually charged the camp, BC Overhead fire boss Roy Benson referred to it as a textbook case of what should happen.
"We truly have an oasis now," Marge Kormendy says, looking out over the camp, which is enjoying a good summer shower this afternoon.
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