Mayo is often Yukon’s hot spot in the summer, and this Saturday June 18,2011 it’s the hot spot for the arts as the Mayo Arts Festival takes place from noon to 7 pm.

“It’s a one-day event that usually draws 400-500 people,” says Esther Winter, a jeweller who first came to Mayo in 1990 to work as a lifeguard. She has been the festival’s coordinator for five years; fibre artist Susan Stuart handled it for the first few editions, starting in 2002.

“The nature of the fest is that we’re trying to have something that’s first and foremost for the Stewart Valley residents to showcase their work,” Winter explains.

Performers and artists include musicians new and old, traditional dancers, and many sewers and fibre artists, to name a few flavours.

There will be workshops in the afternoon covering a wide range of hands-on crafts skills, from how to how to stitch beautiful designs with porcupine quills (with Mayo’s Nancy Hager) to making your own lip balm (with Katie Hastings, from Dawson City).

Presenters have a connection to the geographic area – they either live there or have lived there in the past.

“We get new people every year, either people who are starting to do things or they’ve developed their craft or music to a level where they’re ready to show it publicly. The idea is to be very grassroots, to be a starting point for people to go on and do bigger and better things.”

An unusual workshop addition this year is “Creating chocolate delicacies” with Chef Tina Girard.

“She’ll be showing people how to make truffles and other sugar-crafted goodies,” Winter says. “Some of the steps may be shown on video since we don’t have a kitchen at the site, but it’ll be beautiful work.”

Musicians include Derek Hastings, a Dawson-based folk singer who’s been learning banjo; a trio of young singers (pictured here) who performed “These Boots Were Made for Walking” at last year’s event; Margaret Freedland kicking back with country tunes; and Retrospective belting out traditional classic rock.

Winter, who has played guitar for about 15 years, plays backup for several of the younger performers in an attempt to encourage as many people as possible to get on stage.

Most of the workshop presenters will also be selling their wares. Susan Stuart, for example, makes animals out of needle-felting. She’s created free-standing elephants, a chameleon on some Dr. Seuss trees, and other multi-coloured creatures.

At the Mayo Arts Festival she’ll be demonstrating needle-felting, but she also wants people to understand the larger process behind the art.

“I like to put out dirty sheep wool and then clean wool and then the coloured fibres – I do my own dyeing, and all of these things are definitely brightly coloured, not their natural colours. So people can see clearly how the dyeing process works.”

The arts tent will be open with wares, demonstrations and workshops from noon until 5 pm, and music will continue until 7 pm. “It’s usually too hot in the tents for people to stay longer,” Winter laughs. “

So if you’re in the mood for a road trip – or making the journey already to join in the Mayo Midnight Marathon (which starts at 8 pm that same evening) – the Stewart Valley’s creative colours will be flying and might just be the perfect destination.