Faro Calling

The Town of Faro fascinates me because I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard stories. That is was a mining boomtown starting in 1969, and now it’s a bit of a bust town.

That it’s very well groomed — in my head (and in writing, now) I call it the Pleasantville of the Yukon. It’s got unusual thermals, the cranes that migrate through the area swirl miles above the town for a few weeks each year. It’s got rock formations that make geologists drool.

Patti Balsillie (more about her soon) calls it a potential Disneyland for geology nerds. I’ve heard that Faro is built in levels, on a hill. I’ve heard that the town and a golf course are one-in-the-same. I’ve heard about the music festivals that used to take place there, and the empty houses. Empty houses make me think of ghosts, and that’s an association that I made up in my head, but it’s because of all the stories swirling around in there. I’ve heard the community is incredibly generous, and welcomes visitors with barbeques and historical talks.

The Town of Faro wants people aside from me to be fascinated. They want Yukoners to go to Faro for the weekend, to bring friends and family there for visits when they’re showing off their homeland, be it adopted or not.

That’s the impetus behind a tourism event happening in the town this weekend, June 27 and 28. It’s called Great for Faro, Good for Tourism.

The town hired Patti Balsillie, a tourism consultant, to fi gure out how to draw the potential out of Faro.

Faroite June Hampton, who’s in a group that’s advising Balsillie, says it’s important that community members are involved with developing tourism, and that they’re developing things for themselves which may be good for tourism, too. Otherwise, Hampton says, local resentment may grow if there are things for tourists but not for locals.

Balsillie says there are fi ve areas of development that experts are going to talk about. And they are things that are already going on in Faro. It’s just that no one knows about them. The fi rst is storytelling. She’s bringing in an expert storyteller to show that the art form could enhance Faro and attract visitors.

Balsillie says she wants gas station and restaurant owners along the highway to tell travelers, “You have to go to Faro for the day. There is storytelling everyday at three o’clock.”

Then there is the geology (remember, Disneyland for geologists). The town could develop interpretative tours built around the unusual rock formations found in the area.

The third area is trails and environmental interpretation, apart from rocks. Balsillie says there are extensive trail systems that the locals love, but it took her a day of searching before she found any information about them online. Balsillie thinks it would be cool if Faro were known for its trails, and developed a mountain biking system for the summer and a cross-country skiing network for the winter.

Then there is an idea to make Faro part of a motor-biking adventure route. Ross River and Carmacks would have to be involved, and the Robert Campbell Highway loop would be touted to visitors.

Finally, there is the idea to promote the agricultural and art potential of Faro. There are lots of artists in Faro, but no one knows, according to Balsillie.

Why not make it an art and craft and food haven? June Hampton says she got involved with this project because, “nobody else was.”

She’s retired, and wants to mentor someone to take this on. Balsillie says Faro needs stewardship and leadership if it’s going to develop a tourism industry. She says it needs a Kim Winnicky, referring to the woman who made the Atlin Arts and Music Festival a go-to summer event for Yukoners — putting “Atlin” on the lips and in the hearts of locals. Balsillie says one or two topics should be focused on; the weekend is when residents will be invited to come out and brainstorm.

How do they want to attract visitors? Balsillie says if Faro doesn’t develop a local industry, it will “struggle to not disappear in the wind in 20 years.”

Hampton doesn’t think it will disappear. She says it will be business as usual, but “usual” is a population of around 400 living amidst infrastructure meant for 2000.

Balsillie and Hampton both say Faro has stories, but no one to tell them to. They want to change that.

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