Things are looking up. After months of having their lives upended by COVID-19, Yukoners can see light at the end of the tunnel. The days are getting longer. Vaccinations are being dispensed. And, to combat the winter doldrums and the pandemic blues, the Yukon Rendezvous Festival is a go.
“We think it’s important to have the festival. I think that a lot of Yukoners are needing something,” says Saskrita Shrestha, executive director of Yukon Rendezvous. “We know it’s going to be different, we know it’s not going to be like Rendezvous has been in the past, but we’re still going to offer a good lineup of things to get people excited.”
There’s a mix of in-person and online offerings, with lots for folks to see and do, even if they rendezvous at home.
But first the sad news: some Rendezvous staples have been eliminated. Where events were considered too risky, with too much potential for high contact or high capacity, festival organizers decided not to hold them this year. An example is the Quest for the Crown, which involves a series of events culminating in the crowning of Rendezvous royalty.
On the bright side, the current Queen, Brenda Pilatzke-Vanier, and the 2020 court will reign a second year. This will give them an opportunity to attend Yukon events that were cancelled in 2020. Since there won’t be any crown contenders campaigning in 2021, raffle tickets are available online. With only 5,000 tickets available, the odds are pretty good for winning a great prize from a Rendezvous sponsor.
The Rendezvous Run Up, taking place from Feb. 12 to Feb. 25, features a number of activities leading up to the festival proper. A lot of events are going virtual, which is a big change, but it’s also a format Yukoners have adapted to over the past year. The online versions offer new ways to participate, including public voting in some events. Virtual festival-goers are invited to cast their votes for the cutest animal in the Pet Parade, the hairiest leg, or best beard in the Strength and Style Competition, and the most creative or whacky upcycled piece in the Rendezvous Fashion Show. Organizers hope that the voting will make the events fun and engaging for the public, Shrestha says.
Other Run Up events include outdoor performances by Sourdough Sam alumni from past years. The Business Décor Challenge encourages Yukoners to visit participating businesses and vote for their favourite.
Finally, the Fiddle Show with Sarah Hamilton and the Fiddle Heads is happening live at the Yukon Arts Centre. The show will be followed by a virtual performance by virtuoso fiddler Mark Sullivan, a three-time Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Champion.
Rendezvous weekend takes place Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, with a mix of in-person and outdoor action.
For families, there’s the Kids Fest at Shipyards Park. Further west, next to Lumel Studios, burly and not-so-burly Yukoners will compete in the axe-throwing, log-tossing and chainsaw-chucking competitions at the Snowpad. From there, festival-goers can head to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre to shop at the craft market and take in live shows on the Main Performance Stage. Capacity will be limited and the performances will be streamed for folks who prefer to watch from home.
After a few years’ hiatus, snow sculptors are returning to create monumental carvings in the Shipyards parking lot. Midnight Sun Fireworks will stage a pyrotechnic musical extravaganza that will be visible all over Whitehorse. People are encouraged to watch from their cars, or from the warmth and safety of their homes. The final event of the festival is a virtual drag show from Tuck Presents, based in Vancouver.
Inevitably, there will be marked differences from pre-pandemic festivals. Venues will be more spread out to facilitate physical distancing. All event areas will have one entry and one exit point, and capacity will be limited. Volunteers will help folks adhere to the requisite COVID-19 measures.
Shrestha says it takes more planning and at least as many volunteers to deliver a scaled-back, virtual and in-person Rendezvous Festival. Organizers and volunteers are going all out to deliver a festival that is safe, while still busting the winter blues and bringing the community together. As the 2021 slogan promises, we will Rendezvous.
Get the full festival scoop, including schedules, COVID-19 guidelines, pre-registration and ticket sales, on the Rendezvous website: yukonrendezvous.com