Celebrating Jack London’s Legacy

One of the stops along Dawson’s 8th Avenue Writers’ Block is Jack London Square, home of a part of Jack London’s Klondike cabin and the Jack London Museum, in a setting modeled after a painting by Jim Robb.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of London’s passing and the Klondike Visitors Association is marking the event with a three-day Jack London Festival from June 3 to 5.

There hasn’t been a London festival in Dawson since 1997, when the 100th anniversary of the author’s sojourn in the Yukon was celebrated during a weekend in September. That one was a fairly scholarly affair, headlined by London aficionados from the United States.

This event will be a little less academic, but it will be packed with special guests, including London’s great-granddaughter, Tarnel Abbott.

In 1897, London, then a young looking 21, with years of experience as a factory worker, hobo, and sailor, was caught up in the excitement of the Klondike Gold Rush and came North to seek his fortune. He found very little gold on the claim that he staked with his partners, but he left filled with golden inspiration and made his first success as a writer with short stories using Klondike settings and with his third novel, The Call of the Wild.

He can be said to be one of the first fiction writers to be internationally famous and to have been able to amass a considerable fortune using nothing but his typewriter.

The London Festival next month will feature daily presentations at the London Museum, including a discussion of London’s career and the story of how the late Dick North, the museum’s founder, led the search for the London Cabin and arranged for half of it to find a home in Dawson.

There will also be daily screenings of Jack London-related films at the Dawson City Museum. There are literally dozens of these, including multiples of The Call of the Wild and White Fang.

On Friday a plaque commemorating Jack’s life and the cabin’s discovery will be unveiled at London Square and there will be a panel discussion featuring some London experts talking about his work.

That evening Michael Bean will be performing his one-man show, “Tracks,” which is based on London’s memoir The Road, which is the story of his rail-riding days as a hobo.

On Saturday there will be a morning dog walk (with leashes) beginning at the London Cabin and heading up the hill behind the town.

A tea-boiling contest, inspired by London’s most famous short story, “To Build a Fire,” will take place on the Gertie’s lot that afternoon.

The evening will feature a stampede-era banquet, featuring only staples that could have been brought in during the Gold Rush. This will include a period costume contest and a performance of Parks Canada’s “Greatest Klondike Author” contest, in which London will be facing challenges from Robert Service and Pierre Berton.

On Sunday there will be a marathon reading of the entire novel The Call of the Wild. The unabridged audiobook recordings take from three, to three and a half hours to complete, so this will take a while. This writer will be one of the readers.  

The exact shape of the closing event on Sunday evening hadn’t been determined at the time of this article, but a note says that it will include cake.

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