Lighting the Night

Erin Corbett’s voice reverberates over the phone line.

She’s in the bathroom of the Old Fire Hall where, aside from the echoed cadences from her voice, the occasional yelps from performers can be heard.

“I have to whisper. I’m getting yelled at,” Corbett says, voice fading into a whisper.

It’s obvious that Corbett keeps busy. Not only is she the new artistic director for Yukon Educational Theatre (YET), she’s also an artist in her own right, with gallery showings and other producing endeavours keeping her out at night.

Right now, along with producer Lauren Tuck, she is gearing up for this weekend’s Winterval festivities in downtown Whitehorse, called Light the Night.

This is YET’s fourth year in charge of the event, since the City of Whitehorse approached the theatre group about taking on the long-running Santa parade, “because they knew we put on events.”

Corbett says Winterval and its accompanying parade have come a long way from the roots laid down by the Hougen Group of Companies in the 1950s and ’60s.

YET produces another of Whitehorse’s timeless winter events, Burning Away the Winter Blues, famous for giant effigies and burning torches.

In contrast to Burning Away the Winter Blues, which is meant for bidding farewell to winter, Corbett hopes Winterval can become the city’s call to lay down arms against the season.

“Unlike Burning Away the Winter Blues, we’re creating a welcome to winter. Instead of burning away all of these things that are weighing us down, we want this to be a celebration,” says Corbett.

“Winterval is about celebrating the gift and the magic of what winter is: the snow and the northern lights, the stars and families spending more time together. Quiet moments, and the art that comes out of winter,” she says.

“A lot of our focus is to remind us that we have all of these elements to celebrate in winter,” she says.

Corbett is quick to assure younger participants that Santa Claus will put in an appearance, “though we’re not sure how yet. He’s kind of a rock star.”

Once the parade and festival get going, children are invited to have their photos taken with the Christmas rock star and let him know what they’d like under the tree this year. But they’ll have to be patient.

“We’re turning it into a walking parade. We’re taking the floats out and getting everyone to join in the parade. Once people have watched it go by, they can join in, so the parade gets bigger,” Corbett explains.

“We have puppets to hand out to people and there’s lantern workshops so people can bring lanterns,” she adds. “They’ll be using milk cartons as the base, with tissue paper and cutting little designs into it so it creates silhouettes.”

The first lantern-making workshop was held last Sunday as part of the Kids Kreate event at the Yukon Arts Centre. Another will take place Friday, November 25 in the youth lounge at Canada Games Centre, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Light the Night begins at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at First Avenue and Main Street with the illumination of the city’s traditional Christmas tree in front of the White Pass building.

The key to Winterval, Corbett says, is participation. She encourages residents and visitors to think of their own ways they would like to engage with the event.

“We have heard through the grapevine a few different ideas people have. The Katimavik crew have mentioned initiating a food drive, and people preparing by dressing up. But more than that, I cannot disclose,” Corbett says coyly.

“You’ll have to come to see!”

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