Celebrating Yukon’s Unique Holiday

Celebrating Discovery Days in the Yukon goes back over 100 years. After the Klondike Gold Rush, the Yukon Order of Pioneers convinced the Yukon Territorial Council to celebrate Discovery Day, as a public holiday, in 1911. Since then, Discovery Day has been a territorial holiday that takes place on the third Monday of August. It celebrates the first gold found at Yukon’s Bonanza Creek on August 17, 1896, by George Carmack, Kate Carmack, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie. Over the next two years, more than 100,000 prospectors rushed to the Klondike, constructed the Yukon narrow-gauge railway and established Dawson City, the vibrant town where people found and lost their fortune. The holiday is unique to the territory and should not be confused with what was previously Discovery Day (renamed “June Day”) in Newfoundland.

Dawson is the place to be on the Discovery Days long weekend: celebrations will take place August 11 at 10 a.m. to August 15 at 11:30 p.m.

Andy Cunningham, marketing and events manager of the Klondike Visitors Association, said, looking back, that events were able to happen over the Discovery Days weekend for the past two years during the pandemic. “Some had limited capacity or were changed to reflect the situation at the time. Nothing was really held online for Discovery Days weekend, the last two years; most things went ahead, with some changes, to make sure they were as safe as possible.”

This year’s celebrations will be a busy affair. One main act, during the weekend, will be the Discovery Day Parade, through town, where participants dress up in costumes, as stampeders.  Another highlight will be the Discovery Days Fastball Tournament. Teams from all over the North are welcome to participate in the tournament, which is fun for the whole family. Registrations already started in the spring. The tournament will kick off on August 12 at Minto Park and Crocus Bluff Ball Fields.

Flowers have a short growing season during the northern summer. The Horticultural Exhibition is the place to see flowers that are growing in the gardens of Dawson City. Held on Discovery Day weekend, the exhibition shows off the best that Dawson’s green thumbs have to offer, as mentioned on their website. Categories of the exhibition include veggies, berries, flowers, baking, preserves, quilting, beading and photography. All are welcome to submit entries at the tent on Front Street starting August 13 at 8 a.m. Judging will commence at 10.30 a.m.

Dawson City is a place for writers and book lovers: people from all over the world are exploring the Yukon’s heritage of Jack London, Pierre Berton, Robert Service and Dick North. The Authors on Eighth writing contest is free for anyone, from anywhere, who would like to enter their work. Categories are poetry and prose.

New this year is the under-16 category for young adults. Submissions are judged by a panel that includes the Berton Writer’s Retreat writer in residence, with a local judge. Prizes include gold nuggets and Klondike books. Selected entries will be published in the Klondike Sun during the following year. Winners will be announced on the Authors on Eighth Walking Tour, which will take place August 11 at 1:30 p.m. On the same day (at 12 p.m.), the Discovery Day Golf Tournament will kick off. Teams of four are invited to the annual 18-hole best-ball tournament, which is going on over the three days.

Sharing memories of past royal tours in the territory, or encounters with royalty, is part of the Jubilee Garden Party at the Commissioner’s Residence. Yukoners are encouraged to send pictures or stories to [email protected] and they will be added to a presentation on royalty in the territory. This event will take place on August 13 at 2 p.m. There will be cupcakes, games and a story from the Story Laureate of Yukon, Michael Gates.

Live music and shows will be taking place all over town. Check out the Midnight Sun Pipe Band who will be playing on the Midnight Dome and at Diamond Tooth Gerties.

The Discovery Day Celebrations will be a busy affair. The Klondike Visitors Association reminds tourists and Yukoners to plan ahead, as accommodations and hotels in Dawson are quickly filling up. Camping may be available for those who want to partake in the celebrations spontaneously.

Full schedules are available on the Klondike Visitors Association website and the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture website.

Discovery Days Events

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