Everyone knows the Yukon is a laid-back, sleepy little place – especially come November, when we gorge ourselves on seal blubber before bedding down with a tiger torch or an oversized husky until spring breaks through the igloo sometime in mid-April.
Anyone who believes that obviously hasn’t been to the Yukon in February. Especially this February.
New York. London. Rome. Sao Paulo. None of them can hold a candle to the dizzying whirl we’ve witnessed on the home front this month.
It hasn’t always been this busy, although Yukoners have never let a little thing like a few weeks of minus-50 temperatures chill their ardour to experience whatever is on offer.
Back in 1945, the only major mid-winter festivity was the newly minted Yukon Carnival, a week of sports and entertainment created by the All Union Committee, which also featured such now familiar events as beard-growing and Queen-crowning.
After a hiatus in the 1950s, while Yukon couples were busy changing nappies on today’s aging Baby Boomers, the festival was reborn in 1962 as the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival.
In the late 1970s, a group of local music fans had a thought: “Hey, we can have fun indoors, too. Let’s bring in some musicians and have a party.” Thus, the Frostbite Music Festival was born in 1979.
Five years later, a third major event came along – an international competition that saw teams of heroic athletes – and their human companions – race 1,000 miles through some of the harshest conditions imaginable.
For years, these were the Big Three on the Yukon’s calendar for the shortest month of the year. But every year, something new seemed to come along.
Which brings us to this February, with its veritable explosion of activity.
It started with a bang at 11 am on February 5, when 25 Quest mushers and their teams left Shipyards Park, bound for Fairbanks. Six hours later, the Quest 300 competitors left the chute.
Three hours after that, the Yukon Arts Centre played host to another successful edition of the annual Skookum Jim Folklore Show.
The next morning, another 70 or so hardy (dare I say foolhardy?) athletes set out on the Quest trail for the Yukon Arctic Ultra, without benefit of dogs to propel them toward Dawson City – where, incidentally, an international curling bonspiel was underway.
If the beginning was busy, the middle of February was positively frenetic.
Not only was there a full week of world-class cinema at the Available Light Film Festival, there also happened to be all the hype and hoopla of Hockey Day in Canada.
Even Ron MacLean and Don Cherry, it seems, realize this is the place to be in February.
Meanwhile, many of the Yukon’s best and brightest young athletes were en route to Halifax to represent us with distinction at the Canada Winter Games.
Against this background, the usual round of events continued: concerts, plays, art exhibits, and the multitude of other things with which Yukoners occupy themselves all year.
Last weekend another Frostbite entered the history books, and now it’s time for the granddaddy of February festivities – Rendezvous.
Get out. Have fun. Blow out the jams.
When the curtain rings down on the shortest month, there’s time enough to hunker down with the tiger torch.
But don’t get too comfy. The calendar has lots in store for March.
Sleepy little place, this Yukon. Not.