Another Field, Another Festival

Claire Ness wasn’t even born in 1969, when the most famous rock festival in history took place.

It’s possible her then-20ish parents, Roy and Penelope, have regrets about not joining the throngs of music-loving hippies who flocked to Max Yasgur’s dairy farm near Bethel, N.Y., for three days of musical magic known affectionately as Woodstock.

But one thing is certain. Her parents won’t take a pass on Wedstock, the Yukon’s slightly smaller version of that big blowout on Saturday, July 30 on a different farm, northwest of Whitehorse.

They’ll be there for the music, possibly for the circus workshops and the food vendors. But mostly, they’ll be there for the wedding of their singing, acting, clowning, circus-performing daughter to an Acadian from Caraquet, New Brunswick.

And perhaps they’ll be forgiven if they see a Woodstock-like quality in the back story behind those nuptials. Indeed, the tale of how Ness met her fiancé resembles an Arlo Guthrie song, or one of many chance encounters associated with that earlier festival.

You see, it’s all because local musician and producer Bob Hamilton’s van broke down in Watson Lake two years ago this August, en route to a gig.

“I was there doing their Arts in the Park Festival, when I saw Bob Hamilton at the hotel,” Ness explains. “He had been dumping water into his van since Rancheria, or whatever, so I was going to give him a ride back to Whitehorse. He had like a dozen guitars with him, so we loaded them into my truck and were getting ready to go.”

Enter Pascal Dugas, one of three electricians who were staying at the same hotel. Ness knew one of the others, and started talking to him.

“Then I saw Pascal open the hood and start doing stuff, so I was like, ‘Oh (expletive), now we’re going to be here for two, three hours, and I just want to get back on the road, or check into the hotel, like I was supposed to do.'”

When Hamilton broke out a bottle of wine, Ness produced her guitar.

“And then I started making a little music video of me singing in front of them, and them wrenching away, and doing little cutaways of their hands working, or a toolbox, and this and that,” she says.

One song she sang, a composition of her own called “I Want to Marry a Mechanic,” turned out to be prescient.

“Within about five hours, I was in love,” Ness laughs. “I told him I loved him pretty early, I’ll say that.”

The deal got sealed that October, when Dugas was working in Beaver Creek and Ness had just emceed the opening night of the Varietease cabaret.

“After the show, I was the last person out of the dressing room. All of a sudden I turned around and Pascal walked around the corner. My heart just hit the ceiling,” she says. “It was a huge surprise, but just that feeling of seeing him was… I guess I knew that was it. It was pretty quick; three months into it, we knew we wanted to get married and have babies, or the other way around.”

On April 11 this year, the first of those babies arrived, a son they named August.

“Auguste is my favourite type of clown,” she explains. “Also, we met in August, and found out we were pregnant with him in August.”

The eighth month also marks the birthdays of Ness’s sister, an aunt and her late grandmother. The name seemed inevitable.

At just over three months old, their son will just be “an ornamental” at the wedding, Ness says before adding with a laugh that “he’ll be the altar of our love.”

The wedding ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at the Circle D Ranch on the Alaska Highway, under a large arch of circus rigging, with a smaller arch built by Ken Briggs. Kim Beggs and Liesel Briggs will share wedding commissioner duties.

The music festival portion of the day starts at 3 p.m. and runs until midnight, with a total of nine local acts, with names from B to V.

“I have a lot of music friends, so I wanted a lot of different bands at the wedding.”

As for the idea of hosting a music festival and a wedding ceremony at the same time, Ness has a ready explanation.

“It’s kind of an obvious solution to trying to decide who to invite to your wedding, and trying to keep it small, so that it’s not too expensive.”

But will Wedstock attract a crowd comparable to the 400,000 who attended the 1969 extravaganza in New York?

“I’m hoping more like 400, but everyone’s invited. I don’t think we have that many friends, though,” she laughs.

“I’m hearing from a lot of people that it’s the party of the summer, but we shall see. Unless I forget something, like toilet paper, or renting a generator, or whatever.”

Festival passes, including free camping, are $51. For an extra $10, attendees will get a pancake breakfast the following morning.

Wedstock takes place Saturday, July 30 at the Circle D Ranch, which is located at kilometre 1459.5 on the Alaska Highway, north of Whitehorse.

For more details, check the Wedstock Facebook page.

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