One of the many remarks I got when I was selling queen raffle tickets during Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous (YSR) events was, “I have never won a prize”.

My usual reply was, “You are already a winner by purchasing the raffle tickets, because you have made a contribution to the community”.

My dear friends, by purchasing the raffle tickets you instantly become a stakeholder in one of the most important events in the Yukon, which has been around since 1962.

Why the longevity? And how is it important for the community? YSR is a long-standing winter festival that brings friends and family together to shed the winter blues.

From 1945 to 1950 it was known as Yukon Carnival Week. The event did not take place from 1951 to 1961 but it restarted in 1962 as Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous. In 1964, the name was officially registered,

Most of the events resemble activities done during the Klondike Gold Rush era, such as fl our packing, one-dog pull, and the patrolling Keystone Cops.

YSR is an economic mainstay for winter commerce. We are the reason many small businesses can pull through from winter to the summer season. Money trickles down from the hotels, restaurants, and businesses through the employees, and is distributed throughout our community. According to an unaudited 1999 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, every $1 raised by our hardy band of volunteers has a business return of $7.00. That is a good investment.

When you purchase a $20 booklet of rendezvous tickets, you are actually contributing $140 into your own community, with the potential of winning one of the many prizes donated by our faithful local sponsors.

The longevity of YSR is its secret weapon, its business model.

It is built on the heart and soul of its volunteers. There are many types of volunteers. Some are in the public eye, such as the queens, can can dancers, Sourdough Sam, and snow shoe shuffl ers, but most remain behind the scenes. These are special people who freely give their time and expertise. Their spirit and joy-of-giving reign supreme.

It has been proven again and again that volunteering contributes to the health and well-being of our citizens. Volunteers feel needed and are provided with a sense of community belonging.

Volunteers gain a wealth of experience and unlimited networking opportunities. They learn about the planning, budgeting, and administration of the festival, down to the smallest and final details.

I would be doing all the queen candidates, past and future, a great disservice if I did not also acknowledge their volunteer contributions.

The queen event is the biggest fundraiser for the festival. Compulsory “Queen School” started in November, and the contestants met weekly. We were taught how a lady in the 1800s carried herself in public.

Our lives were turned upsidedown. We juggled work, family, new skills, and ticket-selling for three solid months. We gave our time, energy and, at times, sacrificed our pay in exchange for a great experience and a great cause.

Year after year, volunteers, loyal sponsors, partners, non-profit groups, and government boards come together faithfully through thick and thin to make this event memorable for all. It is no wonder that YSR remains “business as usual” after all these years.