I didn’t expect Arts in the Park to happen at all this year. Everything was getting cancelled, from big festivals like Atlin Arts and Music Festival and Dawson City Music Festival, to smaller bar shows with local acts. It just seemed like live music wasn’t going to be something that was happening at all, and events being postponed was more common than them being adapted to somehow fit within COVID-related guidelines.Eventually, there was a social media announcement about Arts in the Park taking place as a live radio broadcast show on CJUC 92.5 FM and a few job listings along with it. I sent in an application that day and within a few weeks I had hit the ground running as the show’s associate producer. Things went generally pretty smoothly over our four-week run. Of course, live music is the preferred way to present a series like Arts in the Park, but working a radio show wasn’t so bad.
Drea Naysayer kicked off our series as a solo act on July 6. We’d spent a long time getting everything ready, but when the first day came, stress levels were high and there were a lot of nerves. After all, this was live radio. There would be no fixing disasters after the fact, so we had to just do our best to avoid them altogether. Drea’s show came and went and the only thing that went wrong was a ticking clock that one of our microphones picked up. We removed the clock and decided if that was the worst thing to happen, that meant things were off to a good start. Our sound technician, Etienne Girard had a constantly full plate, with almost every act requiring a different setup, and only an hour before each performance to get everything figured out.As there was no real visual component to the show, our producer, Sarah Ott, took photos of each performer to use for social media promotion, and we kept the recordings of each show to post online for people who may have missed them as well. Over the rest of week one, we had hip-hop duo Local Boy, Arts in the Park co-founder Steve Slade, a Wednesday evening show with Cryptozoologists, a Thursday broadcast from Dawson City with Andrew Laviolette and Kristen Poenn, and Stockstill and Rose closing the week on the Friday afternoon.
We had gotten the hang of things a bit more after the first week, which felt like a bit of a trial period. Erica Mah and Darcy McCord started off the week, with Selina Heyligers-Hare joining us for our Tuesday show. We brought some speakers from Music Yukon that week to put outside while the show was going on, so people in Shipyards Park could hear. Unfortunately, we couldn’t always have them out, because it Was raining more often than not, but it was still nice for the shows where we could make that work. Each Wednesday morning before the noon-hour show, which was usually a kids or family-friendly show, we had the Yukon Literacy Coalition come in and read some children’s books. The changeover could be a challenge sometimes. The book readings were supposed to lead right into the performances, and with everyone having to be two metres apart in the small CJUC cabin, and all equipment having to be disinfected after each use, this would have been a pretty likely time for any blunders. But, we managed to make it work and it got a little easier every week.Michael Brooks joined us that Wednesday for a stripped-down version if his Bingo Bongo Boogie Band children’s music act, featuring just Roxx Hunter on guitar. Later that evening, we had one of the most complicated setups of the entire series, belonging to Groan Boy, consisting of Dawson Beaulieu with an elaborate guitar setup and Patrick Hamilton, with a full drum kit. The Dawson show that Thursday featured Susu Robin, and we had Graeme and Jody Peters of Speed Control end the week on a high note.
At the beginning of our third week, it didn’t at all feel like we were already halfway through our season. The first two weeks had zipped by, and time didn’t start slowing the further into the series we got. The first act of week three was Ragtime Annie and Yukon Sal, usually known as mother and daughter Annie Avery and Sarah Hamilton. Since Sarah’s brother Patrick had been in the week before, and their dad Bob Hamilton was part of the final show in week four, that made the Hamilton-Avery crew the only entire family to take part in Arts in the Park this year.The week continued on with Alex and Dan on Tuesday, who are best known as members of the Midnight Sons and the Shaggy Manes. The Wednesday afternoon show was an interesting one. The forecast didn’t call for much rain, and it seemed pretty dry out despite some storm clouds in the distance. We decided to take our chances and put the speakers out with garbage bags over them for singer-songwriter Toots’ show. About halfway through the performance, the rain started coming down heavily, forcing Etienne and I to run out and bring the speakers in, drenching ourselves in the process. Sorry about that, Toots. We didn’t take our chances with the speakers after that, and only put them out when it was sunny and dry. Later that evening, we had Aiden Tentrees’ new act Garbageman deliver a dose of strange spacey rock, and luckily we didn’t get rained on then. Word began to spread and we started to get people coming down to the park just to listen, but on the nice days the park was often full of unsuspecting people who just happened to be there anyway. That week’s Dawson performance was by Sophie Noel, and French pop covers duo Edith Cocotte wrapped up the week.
It was strange and sad to be in our final week so soon. It felt like we had just gotten into the groove of things and already the month-long run of shows was coming to an end. We had a very chill Monday and Tuesday, starting off with Kevin Barr, Hank Karr and Chuck Charlebois, then Ellorie McKnight and Ryan McNally. Wednesday was another busy day, with Claire Ness handling the noon hour show while Nakai Theatre listened from the park where they were hosting a puppet-making session, and the evening show featured Elijah Bekk, who had travelled from Faro to join us, and Aiden Tentrees playing standup bass for him. The next day, Evrytt Willow’s showcase was broadcasted from Dawson, while we were hard at work all day and evening pre-recording the grand finale show for Friday. It wasn’t possible to have five different acts come through and perform live within the hour-long slot, so we had Sour Do Re Mi bookend the finale with a busking-style performance, and the rest of the performers, Fawn Fritzen and David Restivo, Calla Kinglit, BJ Maclean and Bob Hamiton and Paris Pick and Aiden Tentrees, pre-record their 15-minute sets and splice them together into one show.Yukon Artists @Work, who had been running a viewing series called Artists in the Window, came out and set up their projects at Shipyards Park, while Nakai Theatre demoed their puppets and we played the finale show over the speakers for the finale. Members of the public were able to walk through, looking at the art and puppets, while listening to the show. And thankfully, it was actually nice out that day. Things may have been a lot different, but Arts in the Park still happened at least, and it was actually pretty cool to present it in this new format.