This could possibly be the most-anticipated Burning Away the Winter Blues event in its 11-year history.
Because of the economy?
“No,” says Arlin McFarlane. “It has been a long winter this year.”
Then she ponders the question a little further and says, “Interesting … I am sure some people are affected by the economy more than others.”
If so, they are invited to submit “paper representations of their blues and burdens” to be burned in the bonfire at Robert Service Campground on the evening of March 21, when the spring equinox is celebrated.
Joining those blues and burdens will be the effigy that has been designed and built by local artist, Emma Barr.
“I saw some sketches of it and it looked great,” says McFarlane, Yukon Educational Theatre’s artistic director and the event’s coordinator, in an interview the day before she would see it for the first time.
“We give artists full rein, but caution them not to make it too heavy, so that it can be carried in the wind.”
Again, this year, participants are asked to park their vehicles in the Robert Service Campground parking lot. A shuttle bus will take them to the start of the torch-lit procession at the S.S. Klondike between 8:15 and 8:30 p.m.
Once the event is over, the participants’ vehicles will be close by and they won’t have to walk along the dark road or trail to the S.S. Klondike.
There, those who have not brought drums or some other type of noise maker will be offered torches to carry.
The noisy, torch-lit march will then proceed alongside the Yukon River on the trail that has been tended to by the City of Whitehorse.
“Last year, I was so pleased,” says McFarlane. “I was driving downtown and saw a City of Whitehorse truck and workers shovelling the trail.
“In other years, it was I who would be out there sanding and with my axe on the icy bits.”
Once at the Robert Service Campground, the effigy and the bits of paper, with blues and burdens written on them, will be burned in the giant bonfire.
Joining the marchers will be people from around the world via the internet.
Last year, a crew provided a live webcast and had 300 visitors from as far away as China.
Unfortunately, falling snow required the laptop to stay in the back of a station wagon. For this year, a more portable solution will need to be “McGyver-ed”.
McFarlane says volunteers are still needed to help with the event. Anyone interested can go to the website at www.burningawaythewinterblues.com. This is where the live webcast can be viewed, too, starting at 8:30 p.m., March 21.