With two championship titles to her name, Heidi Bliedung is well within her rights to offer advice on one of the toughest, most unusual annual competitions in Dawson City. Her success at mastering the physical and mental prowess necessary to win the Alfie Winton Tricycle Race, one of the many events in the upcoming Thaw di Gras, is not an accident.
“Aside from my natural ability and knowledge of the course, I follow a strict training regimen. My physical training includes speed spot running, bench presses and of course the essential ‘bicycle crunches’,” she explains.
“The second part of my training has been ongoing. It involves a specially selected combination of brews and shots. I have been diligent at developing my mental capacity whilst under the influence.”
For decades, the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) has organized the weekend carnival of more than 20 events presented by community businesses, non-profits, and passionate individuals. There truly is something for everyone.
This year, Thaw di Gras takes place March 18 – 20.
Lip Sync, sponsored by the Dawson City Music Festival, kicks off the weekend on Friday night in what is “one of the weirdest and funniest moments of the year in Dawson,” according to Festival Producer Tim Jones.
In the grand tradition of Milli Vanilli, participants mime songs on the stage of Diamond Tooth Gerties, using elaborate costumes and choreography.
The resulting acts and their performers are always unpredictable.
“I’ll never forget a tuxedo-clad Ben Johnson doing an unlikely, spot-on impression of Frank Sinatra last year,” Jones recalls of a Dawson City local.
Thaw di Gras continues on Saturday and Sunday with events that challenge strength, artistic talents, furry friends and, in general, your endurance for fun.
Sporty people can play snowshoe baseball, road hockey, ping pong, and a miniature version of curling with tuna can rocks, while sporty dogs can participate in the One Dog Pull (where dogs attempt to pull a pallet of 1,000 pounds of dog food donated by the KVA) or the Sunnydale Classic Dog Sled and Skijor Race.
Evelyn Pollock, who organized last year’s Sunnydale Classic, recommends catching the high energy start of the race at the ice bridge to hear the cacophonous barking of dogs and to see which skijorers dare to wear downhill skis for the competition.
Although Dawson is famed for being a dog town, felines will have the chance to get their moment in the spotlight at the Second Annual Bombay Peggy’s Cat Show.
Rachel Wiegers, Marketing Manager at the KVA, describes last year’s cat-centric event as “hilarious and indeed ridiculous.”
“Best in Show went to a cat named Button King, and what did he do? Well, not much, but his owner Allie Haydock looked pretty adorable in her cat costume.”
Saturday’s events also include KIAC’s Family Coffee House, the Tricycle Race and Hat Toss at the Westminster Hotel, and the Youth Lip Sync.
On Sunday, outdoor fun abounds with the axe throw, the chainsaw toss, tea boiling competition and the egg toss.
Additionally, Dawson’s top chefs compete in the Chili Cook Off, dishing up all varieties of chili to anyone who wants to taste and judge.
Last year, Blake Cameron and Jill Snoddon took a highly contentious win in this event.
“We went for the carnival themed chili dog,” explains Cameron. “Now, to the purest out there, it may seem odd to bring in a hot dog as your vessel of choice to eat the chili. I say it’s a brave new world and no one should tell you how to eat. Apparently the people agreed.”
This year, however, the duo will not be competing, as Snoddon will be traveling to “inspire her culinary whimsy.”
“We’ll be back next year, fired up, and hungry for victory,” Cameron assures.
This competitively fun spirit radiates throughout Thaw di Gras, which makes sense in a town that takes having fun very seriously.
Ask Cameron, Pollock, Bliedung, or any other Dawson resident, and they’ll tell you that Thaw di Gras truly marks the start of spring for the community.
“Because Dawson’s population is so small and the events are centrally located, Thaw di Gras is intimate,” says Wiegers. “It’s a great chance for visitors to meet local Dawsonites.”
And how better to do this than when Dawson is doing what it does best: letting the good times roll.
Visit www.dawsoncity.ca for a full schedule of the March 18-20 Thaw di Gras events.