A spooky pre-Halloween evening

Dawson City’s Old Court House on Front Street will be the site for this year’s Haunted House event, a yearly offering to the community sponsored by Parks Canada.

For many years the RCMP took the lead in providing this Halloween celebration, but four years ago they needed to step down. Janice Cliff, with Klondike National Historic Sites of Parks Canada, said that they were contacted to see if they could take it on.

“It had always been a sort of secret dream of mine to do this on the side, so I leapt at the opportunity,” she said.

That year the Palace Grand Theatre was still being heated in October, and its three floors made an excellent venue for spooky settings and scary set pieces.

Cliff thought it would be great to get even more of the community involved, so she reached out to non-profit groups. That first year the Robert Service School Grade 12 class, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Youth Centre and the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) all participated.

Over the years, participation has grown until, this year, it looks like eight other groups will be involved in creating a spooky evening between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday, October 28.

This year participating groups will include the Dawson Humane Society, the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, students from the Yukon School of Visual Arts, the RCMP, the nurses from the Dawson Community Hospital, the Recycling Depot and the KVA.

“I think having that type of community involvement gets everyone collaborating together to put on an event for the community, by the community.”

Last year the Palace Grand was undergoing repairs and was not available, so the venue was relocated to the Former Territorial Court House National Historic Site, which could be heated and had two floors of rooms that could be adapted for the purpose. It is being used again this year, though this is the last time it will be available, as it is slated to become the new headquarters for Klondike National Historic Sites operations in Dawson over the next couple of years.

“Parks Canada has these incredible buildings, these incredible historic sites, that have a little bit of a spooky appeal to them, especially in the off season, when things have shut down for the winter. To me, it just makes perfect sense to try and utilize them in creative ways,” Cliff said.

“It’s a real opportunity to transform a space and hopefully, really frighten people.”

The timing for this year’s Haunted House is so that people will also have time to attend the Family Community Dance being hosted that night by the Little Blue Daycare.

“We thought it would make an evening of Halloween activities for families.”

Last year saw about 450 people attend the Haunted House. This year, on that weekend, there will still be visiting teens in town from the Dawson Invitational Volleyball Tournament, so there should be good attendance at these events.

The Haunted House is a free event, but there will be a collection jar at the entrance and any money donated will go to one of the non-profits that are in charge of a room. Last year it was the Conservation Klondike Society.

For more information contact Parks Canada at 867-993-7210.

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