It may be the 39th year of Dawson City’s beloved annual music festival, but this tried-and-true summer favourite is always sure to include some firsts.
This is definitely the case for East Coaster Andrea Vincent, who took over as Dawson City Music Festival Executive Director last August. Though she has been involved in organizing music festivals for the last seven years in her home town of St. John’s, Newfoundland, the Dawson City Music Festival will be Vincent’s first production of a northern festival, as well as her first time experiencing the tiny, but spirited, event.
“It’s both nerve wracking and exciting,” Vincent says.
She’s looking forward to experiencing the Yukon firsthand. “I always thought I’d like to visit the Yukon by the time I was 30,” Vincent says of her arrival to the territory. “I started this job one month to the day of turning 30.”
While there are many charming small towns across Canada that spring to life with colourful festival goers clutching tickets, band merchandise and overflowing mugs of local beers, there is something unique about the Dawson City Music Festival. For many it marks the peak of summer in the Yukon.
Nestled in a valley bottom and set against the backdrop of the Klondike gold fields and the mighty Yukon River, the whole of Dawson City seems to become a stage during the iconic event. Hotels and campgrounds book solid with music thirsty locals and visitors, Dawsonites open their homes to festival performers, and six venues around town – from St. Paul’s Anglican Church to the The Odd Fellows Hall ballroom to the Front Street Gazebo – grace world class musicians for three solid days of music.
“The Dawson City Music Festival always seems to do a great job of offering something for everyone,” says Vincent. “We bring in a variety of genres. It’s important to have diversity in a lineup and not stick to one thing.”
This year, festival organizers saw an exceptionally high volume of applicants: 600 to 700 applications were submitted between September to December 2016.
“It’s a lot of work to go through submissions, but being exposed to so much new music is one of the perks of the job,” Vincent says.
Highlights for this year’s lineup include an eight piece traditional Haitian voodoo band, Chouk Bwa Libete, who combine Haitian roots with contemporary music; Duchess Says, an artful Montreal based band mixing new wave, punk and electro; and local Dawson act The Dead Wild, who play what Vincent describes as “a dark country genre/rockabilly honky tonk.”
Other Yukon acts include The Ukes of Hazard, The Hän Singers and Calla Kinglit.
The festival will showcase over 20 musical acts from July 21st to July 23rd, as well as 15 culinary and craft vendors.
Saturday, July 21st from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. marks KIDSFest, the annual children’s component of Dawson City Music Festival, with performances by Whitehorse children’s performer, Michael Brooks, and Yukon Girls Rock Camp participants, which sees 23 girls and gender non-conforming youth between eight to 18 years of age showing off their musical chops and empowerment skills mainstage at Dawson City Music Festival. This portion of the event is free (no festival pass required) and features face-painting, arts, crafts, games and dancing.
If you’re looking to secure your place in the crowd at this year’s festival, tickets are available at www.DCMF.com.
There are plenty of hotels and hostels around town to choose from if you’re in need of accommodation, and overflow camping is available at the Crocus Bluff ball field, which costs $10 per night and campsites can be reserved online.
If interested in volunteering for the event, Vincent encourages individuals to sign up online as there are many volunteer roles yet to be filled before festival kickoff.
While Vincent might not get to kick her heels back, relax and soak in all of her and team’s hard work this festival season, she looks forward to the cultural experience, and extends a huge thank you to sponsors, friends of the festival, the Dawson City Music Festival board and committee heads.
“That’s the joy of planning music festivals,” Vincent laughs. “You get 60 seconds here and there to look around and see how much fun audiences and musicians are having.”