The Yukon’s Discovery Day Holiday is one of those things that it’s kind of hard to pin down. While it was originally fixed to be the third Monday in August when it was established back in 1911, these days it is more likely to be the Monday closest to the actual day – August 16, 1896 – when gold was discovered by George Carmack, his brother-in-law Skookum Jim, and Jim’s nephew, Dawson Charlie, on Rabbit Creek, which was soon renamed Bonanza Creek.
Last year, the event was celebrated on Monday, August 15, with all the events finishing up the day before the actual date of August 16.
This year, it’s going to be celebrated on August 20 – four days after the actual discovery date.
My late neighbour and friend, John Gould, used to get quite annoyed about these shifting dates. His miner’s and historian’s heart felt that the holiday should be on the real day. However, as a society, our collective fondness for long holiday weekends means that only happens occasionally.
Putting together the list of the things that are going to happen during the week leading up to the holiday weekend is a chore undertaken by the Klondike Visitors Association. They don’t organize all the events, but act as a coordinating body.
Andy Cunningham, the KVA’s marketing and events assistant, has been of great assistance in preparing this column, but there were still things he did not know prior to our deadline date.
For the KVA, one of the big events of the year is the Authors on Eighth writing event (see separate article) and afternoon walk on August 17, when the works of Jack London, Robert Service, Pierre Berton and Dick North will be celebrated along Eighth Avenue. But this year they’re adding a series of three evening readings, one at each site, from Monday, August 14 to Wednesday August 16. These will be broadcast on CFYT-fm.
The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture will hold the Riverside Arts Festival from the 17th to the 20th. It will include displays and workshops at the Waterfront Park, presentations at the KIAC Building and the ODD Gallery, and the Yukon School of Visual Art, a gallery walk to various sites around the town and the latest edition of the annual Natural and the Manufactured exhibits.
For sports fans there will be a fastball tournament from Friday, August 18 to Sunday, August 20.
The Klondike Placer Miners’ Association will hold its Barbecue and Dance on Friday evening.
Saturday, August 19 will feature the Discovery Days Parade along King, Front and Princess Streets, winding up at the Museum on Fifth Avenue. There will be speeches, prizes and a birthday cake.
For those who prefer running, Run Dawson will hold its Disco Days Trail Race at 10 a.m. on Saturday. There will be 10 and 5 km runs and a 5 km walk.
Dawson has a long history of farming and growing ornamental gardens, and the Horticultural Exhibition will be held in the Waterfront Park on Saturday.
The Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre will contribute to the events by holding Dënezhu Bingo from 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday.
Sunday, August 20 will feature the popular Mud Bog event in the North End, beneath the Moosehide Slide.
The Friends of the Klondike Corridor are organizing a Youth Living History Summer Camp from the 14th to the 18th and the youth will be staging performances at the Museum and at the Bear Creek Historical Compound on the 19th and 21st. The Compound will also be the site of a pancake breakfast on Monday the 21st and this will tie into a special presentation at the Discovery Claim and gold panning at the KVA’s Free Claim (Claim #6) that afternoon.
That will just about the wrap up the week, bringing it to a close where it all began in 1896.