Klondike Korner: Gold Show Turns 25

Gold Show Ready to Go” (Whitehorse Star, May 26, 1986).

My headline had to be in the Star, because the Klondike Sun would not exist for another three years at that point.

In the fall of 1985 Bill Bowie brought the seed of an idea back from a trip to Inuvik, where he had attended BIG (for Beaufort Industries Group) ’85, a massive trade fair based on the oil industry. He thought that maybe something similar could be done here with a focus on gold mining.

Perhaps 15 or 20 exhibitors might be coaxed into showing up.

In the end there were 45, and that happened after a year of planning involving participation from the Chamber of Commerce, the Klondike Visitors Association and the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association.

There were 270 delegates over the weekend, all roaming through the exhibits in the Bonanza Centre Arena and attending a variety of seminars.

Lead organizer Mimi Elliot and Gold Show chair Greg Hakonson pronounced themselves pleased with the event and allowed, as the Star’s June 2, 1986 headline put it, that the “Gold Show Success May Prompt Repeat.”

It keeps on repeating and is now in its 25th year.

It shifted ahead a fortnight to Victoria Day weekend after a few years, and has stayed there.

Industry seminars declined in number as it became clear that people weren’t attending them. This year they have been replaced by a series of “lightning talks” – 10-minute presentations – that will be listed in the brochure.

There was a year when The Gold Show didn’t happen because there was no arena for it to happen in, and there have been a couple of close calls after that due to safety considerations.

It has waxed and waned in popularity, and it’s safe to say that one of its more popular attractions is the displays of bedding plants as people really start to think about summer gardens.

But it’s still happening, and it still draws a crowd, and it really does seem like the beginning of summer.

Oh, and when we did launch the Sun in 1989, we picked Gold Show weekend to do it.

This year the Chamber is the lead organizer, as it has been for many years now. Chamber manager Evelyn Pollock says there will be 70 exhibitors this year, up from last year’s 60. Two weeks from the event she was busy renting additional booths for the arena.

The weekend has come to include the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association’s annual general meeting. This year the KPMA will also be hosting a Spring Social, with entertainment by that Dawson favourite, Gillian Campbell. Campbell will perform on both Friday (at the Palace Grand) and Saturday (at Diamond Tooth Gerties) evenings.

There is space among the booths for home-based businesses, arts and crafts creators and non-profit organizations to offer their wares and services.

The weekend will also see the launch of art exhibits at the ODD Gallery and Confluence Gallery as well as “Bloomers to Sack Suits: A Klondike Fashion Show” at the PG on Saturday (see separate article in this edition).

Pollock and the Chamber committee began planning this year’s event in January. This is her second year at the job and she says there’s a definite increase in interest this year, no doubt influenced by the exploration and staking boom that’s been going on for the last couple of years.

“It also seems to be providing a marketing niche or service that people seem to want to take more advantage of this year than in the past. Our sponsorship list is a lot stronger this year,” Pollock says.

“Last year we were coming out of the recession and people didn’t have a lot in their pockets. This year I think people are in a healthier financial position.”

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

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