Whether you have a green thumb or not, you’re invited to the Horticultural Exhibition in Dawson City on Aug. 13.
Tarie Castellarin and Helen Dewell have been involved in organizing the exhibition since 2013. The event itself dates back to the early 1900s.
“In the past, the exhibition was huge and used to be four days long. It featured not only vegetables, but furs, grains, grasses, pressed wallflowers and wood carving,” says Castellarin. “It’s part of our history.”
Castellarin, an avid gardener, grew up in Dawson City. She says her whole family was always heavily involved in community events; her mom especially, loved competing in the horticultural exhibition.
“I would get up at 6 a.m. the day of the show to help my mom cut flowers and veggies,” she says.
In 2013, Rea Tyerman, who had organized the event the previous year, had too much on her plate to continue. Castellarin and Dewell were on a walk through their neighbourhood when the idea came up that they themselves could take it on.
“It all started with a walk between two friends,” Castellarin says.
As there were no written notes or instructions on how to run the exhibition, the two women decided to use an old program from a 1946 show as a guide.
“We’d never done this before and had nothing to go on,” says Castellarin. “That old program had everything and helped us to develop the different classes for judging.”
The Yukon Order of Pioneers Lodge No. 1 sponsors the event, and the Klondike Visitors Association helps with the advertising. The two women also partnered with the museum to make signage boards describing the history of gardening in the Klondike, which they display during the exhibition.
They also rely heavily on volunteers for set-up and for judging.
There are usually six to eight judges, all gardeners from the community. On the morning of the exhibition, participants have between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to drop off their entries. Each entry is then numbered, and judging takes place at 11 a.m. Participants can then pick up their entries after 3 p.m.
What the judges are looking for, says Castellarin, are things like size, conformity and colour. For the baked goods and preserves, judges sample the entries.
There are about 45 classes to enter. Along with flower and vegetable classes, also included are handicrafts, photographs, beaded work, quilts, knitting, crocheting, quilting, bouquet and wild flowers, and potted plants, to name a few.
Every once in a while, though, something different comes along and a new class needs to be added.
“Last year, someone entered peanuts,” Castellarin says. “We definitely had to start a new class for that one. We called it the exotic class. Tourists really love that class – they’re always surprised at what we can grow up here.”
She also mentions the 18-pound kohlrabi that was entered one year.
“We started a ‘gigantic’ category after that.”
Everyone who enters gets a participation ribbon. Participants can enter in as many classes as they wish. There are first, second and third place winners in each class. The person who wins the most overall ribbons receives the grand aggregate ribbon and is the big winner. Louise Piché, last year’s aggregate recipient, won in 20 different classes.
“It’s all about a celebration of produce, handicrafts, summer, and what we can grow here in the Klondike,” sums up Castellarin. “So many neat things come in. We all inspire each other.”
All gardeners are welcome to submit entries on Saturday, August 13, at the tent on Front Street by the Artists Market in downtown Dawson City. Contact Helen Dewell (993-6736) or Tarie Castellarin (993-6441) for more information. Children are also welcome to participate.