All That Glitters in the Klondike

Dawson City was founded on the glitter of gold and, so, it is no surprise that the yellow metal gets mentioned a great deal here.

We work it into other events that might have no natural connection to the stuff. But we’re in the Klondike, right? And just now, with the staking rush that has followed from the prospecting of the Ryan Woods team and the excitement around Underworld Resources finds in the White River area, it’s kind of like there’s a whole new Gold Rush going on.

So we come to Canada Day.

Canada Day is the excuse for the first of Dawson’s two big parades of the summer.

Now, you have to understand that the notion of a “big parade” is sort of relative to where you live. I was in Stratford a few years ago and the parade there takes over an hour to pass any one point on the street.

Dawson parades generally take about 15 minutes, and would be shorter except for the contributions of the fire departments.

As a reporter, that gives me the chance to set up near the beginning of the parade for pictures, and then hop on my bicycle and beat it to the far end of the route to get shots with a different background.

Not that there isn’t lots of enthusiasm, lots of balloons and clever decorations, cute kids on bicycles, older kids on those strange 19th century pennyfarthings, speeches and national birthday cakes. All that stuff happens and it’s good fun.

But my missive this week is to highlight the gold, or rather, the gold panning, which takes up most of the afternoon.

In recent years, the venue has been set up on Front Street, to attract as many spectators as possible. The rules of the contest, which has a number of different categories, are pretty simple: each contestant is handed a bucket of paydirt salted with a pre-determined number of flakes of gold. They don’t know how many there are, but they have to find as many as they can in a set period of time.

The panning troughs are full of chilly water. Contestants fill their pans with gravel. Some bend over the troughs; some climb right in. The object of the game is to wash away the gravel without losing the gold flakes, to do so as quickly as possible, and to transfer the flakes into a small glass vial when you have finished.

Past events have included categories for the really young, the slightly older, first-time panners, experienced panners and teams of panners.

The winner of the Yukon Open category gets to go to the International Goldpanning Championships (yes, this is NOT just an odd thing we do in the Klondike) which are generally held somewhere in Europe, but could be held anywhere in the world.

This year’s will be in Zlotoryja, Poland, but 2012’s will be in Mpumalanga, South Africa. They were held here in Dawson four times between 1984 and 2007, each event bigger than the last.

So, come on out and grab a pan. There’s a Cheechako event for beginners and you might just catch gold fever.

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