Dawson’s impishly named Thaw di Gras carnival is still thought of as a spring carnival, even though a good March weekend will still be in the minus teens and a bad one may be in the minus 20s with wind chill.
Whatever the weather may bring, much of this March 17th to 19th weekend will take place outside, including the ever-popular road hockey, snowshoe baseball and all the family events that happen on Sunday afternoon.
Originally developed by the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) as an event for locals to celebrate the returning daylight and approaching end of deepest winter, the KVA has, in recent years, made attempts to add events that might attract visitors, as well.
KVA Marketing Manager Paul Robitaille makes no apology for using the event to promote tourism as well as entertain the home crowd.
“We’re starting to get more recognition territory-wide about this event.”
He thinks it’s because nearly everything on the roster over the weekend can be done by anyone who wants to, and nearly all the events are free.
“A lot of carnivals that you go to, you might get a chance to do just one thing, but with ours there are chances to do a lot of things.”
Events include the Saturday’s Craig Dunham Street Hockey Tournament; Snowshoe baseball on the school playground; dog and cat shows, contests involving things that get thrown (axes, chainsaws, logs, hats and eggs); tea boiling and chilli cooking; and the Barry Fargey Dog Sled and Skijor Race out on the partially frozen Yukon River.
There are lip-sync events at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s for both young and old.
There will be dog sled rides, adult tricycle raises, something called “bum darts”, several contests that take place in the bars, and fireworks out on the river. There may even be snow sculptures, if it doesn’t all melt too soon.
The Association franco-yukonnaise will be supplying the materials for their AFY Sugar Shack. Air North is hosting a paper airplane event in Gertie’s, as well as offering extra flights from Whitehorse to get people here for the weekend and home again.
This weekend really works out for local families, as it is also the beginning of the Robert Service School’s March Break. As well as the frenetic loonie and candy in a haystack contest on Sunday afternoon, that day will feature the return of the fondly remembered free spaghetti dinner at Gertie’s, sponsored this year by Goldcorp. It will be followed by an announcement of all the winners in the 40-plus events.
“We’ve had great organizers the last few years, who have taken on bigger roles in doing things, and this just keeps getting better,” Robitaille said.
“Thaw di Gras is all about participation and having fun, and celebrating as a community. We’ve done a pretty good job of spreading out the events throughout the weekend so that they don’t conflict too much.”
The carnival kicks off with the Dawson City Music Festival’s adult lip sync on the evening of Friday, March 17.
Along with carnival events, Saturday will also feature the bi-annual Dawson Fur Show, being held by the Dawson District Renewable Resources Council, and located this year in the Robert Service School.
All in all, it promises to be an extremely busy weekend.