Chatting with Dawson International Short Film Festival producer Dan Sokolowski at the end of a busy weekend, he made the point that there were approximately 80 volunteers involved in putting the festival on and that they contributed something like 800 hours of their time between last year’s festival and this one.
That’s typical of all the events that take place under the umbrella of the Dawson City Arts Society, of which the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture (KIAC) is the program arm. KIAC has several staff positions, but depends heavily on the willingness of unpaid people to make things work.
It’s also true of major programs that run under the banner of the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA). The KVA also has some permanent employees, and hires a lot of summer staff to run Diamond Tooth Gerties, but many of its special events would not happen if people were not willing to give their time.
For example, the recent Trek Over the Top was a success because of the cooperation between the KVA and the Dawson Sled Dawgs, the local snowmobile association.
The Klondike Sun newspaper, my own volunteer activity, employs a part time office person and a bookkeeper, but many hours of volunteer time by a core group of about five people goes into distribution and subscriptions. Other people produce the copy and photographs that fill up the space around the advertising.
We did a survey a few years ago to find out how many organizations there were in town. The number was around 40, and I’d wager it’s still in that neighbourhood. Not bad for a town of under 2,000 people.
The local Chamber of Commerce sometimes has an office manager and sometimes doesn’t, but it chugs along on the efforts of dedicated business owners who see it as filling a need.
The Dawson City Music Festival has one year-round employee and one or two summer workers, but dozens of people give their time to billet and feed performers, set up the venue and staff the security, and run the merchandizing and concession booths.
CFYT-FM has a program manager, but runs with many volunteer DJs and a membership of about two dozen.
Recycling in the town would hardly exist without the efforts of the Conservation Klondike Society. It does employ some workers, but when things get out of hand, as they often do, volunteers pitch in to make recycling work.
The Dawson Humane Society operates the animal shelter and cooperates with the town’s bylaw department to look after strays and abandoned animals.
The recently completed Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race ran smoothly because the organizers tapped a lot of volunteers, and many of the same people were on hand to make sure the Yukon Quest made it past the halfway point without any problems.
All of these organizations have governing boards that are completely volunteer based, and some people serve on more than one of them.
Dawson runs on volunteer efforts, and as a result, the place is the effective community that it is.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.