What is Dawson City’s answer to the winter blues? The Thaw Di Gras spring carnival, a three-day event from March 15-17.
The Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) organizes and schedules the action-packed weekend and they also host some of the many events, such as the egg toss, the Loonies in a Haystack and the tea boiling competition.
“There are plenty of unique things to do throughout the weekend,” says Paul Robitaille, marketing and events coordinator for the KVA. “And they’re all within walking distance.”
According to Robitaille, the spring carnival is truly a community event. “Everyone lets their hair down and participates in ridiculous and whacky, made-in-the-North, events,” he says. “It really showcases some of the best of what Dawson has to offer.”
The festival kicks off on the Friday night (March 15) with the ever-popular adult lip sync, held at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s. Contestants lip sync on stage to their favourite song, either solo or in a group. Preparation can start weeks ahead, with some groups designing elaborate costumes and sets. The hall is usually packed, with lots of ribbing and roaring from the audience.
Saturday’s agenda offers various events around town: examples includearm wrestling, a dog and cat show and a snow sculpturing contest. There is also a kid’s lip sync for children 18 years and under at Gertie’s from 3 to 5 p.m. Marta Selassie, manager of the Dawson City Recreation Department,which organizes the event, says last year Gertie’s was filled with hundreds of people, mostly parents, cheering on their kids.
“It’s organized chaos,” Selassie chuckles.
The stagehands and MC are volunteers and a different non-profitgroup takes care of the concession and the door every year and receives the proceeds. There are three volunteer judges to decide the winners, but, as Selassie points out, in the end everyone gets a prize.
The local pubs also host various events. At the Westminster, for example, you can enjoy a tricycle race for adults. Heidi Bliedung, organizer of this event, maps out the course using tape and arrows. Up to 50 contestants race through both the tavern and lounge using a specially built tricycle. The event is timed, with an average finishing time of 23 seconds.
Contestants can make several attempts, with the winner receiving a ribbon, cash prize or a donated prize. Most complete the course safely, but occasionally there is some head smashing, wheelies popped, or by-standers endangered.
Bliedung also organizes a hat toss in the tavern, as well as bum darts in the lounge. Bum darts consists of fully clothed contestants clenching quarters between their butt cheeks and hobbling the length of the lounge stage to drop as many of them as possible into a can.
Once a contestant managed to transport the equivalent of two rolls of quarters in one attempt. Wearing long underwear works better than jeans,Bliedung says.
The winner gets bragging rights and half the money in the can and a local charitygets the other half.
Another popular event is road hockey, which takes place right outside the Westminster. Teams play all weekend long, with an occasional player crashing through the tavern door.
Saturday evening culminates with fireworks put on by the KVA and the Dawson City Fire Department, then it’s off to the pubs for live music.
Sunday starts bright and early with a chili cook-off. This event is located in the empty lot next to the Westminster. Everything must be prepared on site, with contestants cooking the chili either on an open fire, a Coleman stove or a BBQ.
Chilis must be completed by noon, when the taste-testing begins. Members of the public then vote on their favourite batch.
Bliedung, who has competed several years in a row, says she put Beano into her chili one time.
“I wanted to prevent the grotesque winds from picking up,” she says.
And what’s a spring carnival in the North without a dog race. The Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Runorganizes the six mile Thaw di Gras Sunnydale Classic Dog Sled and Skijor Race, run partially on the Yukon River and partially on land, with a maximum of five dogs per contestant.
Anna Claxton, who helps organize the event, feels holding a fun dog race during a spring carnival keeps it community-based and accessible to anyone. “You don’t have to be a pro or own any dogs,” she says. “There are always some to borrow. It’s about the spirit of having fun.”
Paul Robitaille agrees.
“People are proud to win the events, but really, it’s all about fun and bragging rights. It brings a festive atmosphere to town.
“It’s the most fun you can have with your snowpants on!”
For more information, contact the Klondike Visitors Association at 993-5575, or visit their website www.DawsonCity.ca