The Yukon’s inaugural 2018 Fur Ball is from the creative minds behind the UnFURled project, and will give Yukon fur-fans a chance to show off their styles. The celebration is part of an ongoing campaign to showcase the Yukon’s fur industry and help trapping thrive in the Territory.
The Fur Ball takes place at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC) on Saturday, March 10 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. There will be traditional jigging and fiddle music by the Old Crow Jiggers, followed by tunes from local bluegrass musician Ryan McNally.
“Come dressed in your nicest fur,” said Jason Van Fleet, Yukon Trapper and executive director of the North Yukon Renewable Resources Council in Old Crow. “You will see some traditional and modern fur fashion.”
He noted that the culture surrounding locally harvested Yukon fur is “something positive; really worth celebrating.”
Van Fleet hopes that the UnFURled project, which uses the slogan “I Am Fur Real,” will help bring Yukoners closer to a traditional way of living.
“Our ancestors tell us that we need to go back to the land to heal,” he said. “In the beginning, trappers were the first to recognize the changes taking place on the landscape as a result of climate change.
“Trappers are our ambassadors and stewards of the land, witnessing some of nature’s greatest triumphs and challenges, while practicing their culture and traditions as taught to them by their fathers and the fathers before them.”
The outdoor lifestyle that goes with trapping is something Van Fleet sees as essential for us to maintain our connection with the land that we live on as Yukoners. “The wild is a place of healing, rest and relaxation. Most experience a real lifting of stress when introduced to remote and isolated locations. Hot tea and bannock refreshes the body while on the land. This is where we call home.”
Part of the UnFURled focus is to give Yukoners the opportunity to sell their own fur, Van Fleet said. “I see a combination of fur and beading as really unique to the Yukon and will set us apart from other jurisdictions.”
A call went out to trappers, who were were encouraged to send in their pelts. Local sewers who work with fur sent in traditional products, too. Those items will be on display at the KDCC and available for purchase March 9 through 11.
Van Fleet envisions the Yukon becoming more competitive in the national and international fur markets and suggested the resurrection of the Yukon Parka Company “as a centrepiece to the Yukon industry to compete with other national brands.”
In order for the Yukon to grow its fur industry he said that fur production needs to pick up, as well. With more trappers working the lines, the Yukon would grow its supply, making fur more available in the Territory and for export. In order for that to happen, more Yukoners would need to learn how to harvest and use fur. He hopes that growing participation in the industry will allow the Yukon to carve out a niche in the fashion industry and increase our market share nationally.
For the industry to grow in the Yukon we also need a direct sales infrastructure that is closer to home.
“Yukoners currently are without a venue to sell their furs locally or to visitors,” Van Fleet said. “Many ideas have been passed around about this untapped market and the need to invest in an entity to work the front line selling these innovative Yukon products.
“Along with a store front venue, we need to address the future tanning needs of the Territory’s growing fur industry, to provide quality Yukon tanned fur to crafters and sewers to build and develop the products…”
Van Fleet said that anyone interested could start by taking a trapping course. As it stands, trapping licenses are good for a lifetime.
“I always encourage new trappers to work with a trapper as an assistant to learn and practice with,” he said. “Conditions and familiarity of the land can prove to be a real challenge when you are cold and tired. With climate change water is becoming more and more of an issue and new trappers may be unaware of how to deal with a circumstance arising, while on the land, that an experienced trapper knows how to deal with.”
Ryan McNally will be performing a combination of acoustic traditional blues, jazz and old time. He said he’s looking forward to playing at the Fur Ball, and to hearing the traditional jigging and fiddle music by the Old Crow Jiggers.
“It’s an opportunity to experience something unique that’s truly authentic,” McNally said.
So, hold on to your pom poms and get jiggy with it, Yukoners. This event is sure to be unFURgettable.
The Fur Ball takes place Saturday, March 10 at the KDCC from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
UnFURled takes place earlier in the day, running from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the KDCC. Note that the 2018 Trappers Fur Showdown – with pelts being judged and selected for awards – takes place the day before: Friday, March 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the KDCC.
Local fur products will be on display and available for purchase at the same location, March 9 to 11.
For all the furry FAQs visit ImFurReal.com.