Dawson City, Yukon Friday, April 12, 2002

Tommy Taylor heads off for Moosehide with Joe Henry's coffin in the face of a stiff breeze. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Community Bids Farewell to Joe Henry
McDougall Sets Record for Time and Number of Wins
DeWolfe Committee Worried by its Own Success
Trek Organizers Still Happy in Spite of Slight Decline
Five Watchers on a Cross Country Adventure
Festival Attendance has Tripled in Three Years
The First Blades of Spring

Welcome to the April 12, 2002 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 32 photographs and 25 articles that were in the 24 page April 9 hard copy edition. The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, and obviously, all the other material you won't find here. See what you're missing by not subscribing?

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Community Bids Farewell to Joe Henry

by Dan Davidson

Joe Henry took his last dogsled ride on Wednesday afternoon. His coffin was bundled onto Tommy Taylor's sled and a festively decorated team of dogs followed a lead truck down along the freshly ploughed river ice road to Moosehide, followed by several snowmobiles and a convoy of vehicles containing family and friends, spaced out at intervals to minimize the strain on the ice.

At the Moosehide cemetery a work crew had been busy for days, thawing the ground with fire in the time honoured Klondike tradition and digging the Dawson elder's grave.

Annie Henry, Joe's wife, did not have to face the ascent of the river bank at Moosehide, but was instead flown to the settlement by helicopter.

By shortly after five o'clock everyone was back in town at the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Community Hall on Front Street for a mammoth potlatch feast in Joe's honour, complete with many testimonials from friends and relatives.

Earlier, at two o'clock, Saint Paul's Anglican Church was crowded to overflowing by an estimated 300 people, with more standing outside in the chilly air listening to the service on speakers set up by the Dawson City Music Festival Society.

The service, which featured lots of music and hymns in both English and Gwich'in, was officiated by the Reverend John Tyrrell, assisted by pianist Betty Davidson and an ecumenical choir directed by Father Tim Coonen. Scripture readings were by Edith Josie, Ruth Carroll and Carol Tyrrell.

Mabel Henry delivered the eulogy, in which she celebrated her 104 year old father-in-law as a man whose life spanned parts of three centuries. She gave thanks for "the traditional was of life that he taught his family and shared with his many friends."

Joe Henry, or "Shädä," as he was known, was also called "Àn Èlya" from his habit of giving things away to people who needed them.

Born in the Blackstone country on May 24, 1898, Joe met and married his wife, Annie (an arranged marriage) on July 15, 1921. Together they raised 12 children, an equal number of boys and girls. Their longevity as a couple was celebrated two years ago by the Guinness Book of World Records during the visit of Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.

Mabel spoke of the three cabins which Joe built over the years for his family to live in: two on the Dempster Highway and one in Moosehide.

"He loved life," she said, "especially when he was out on the land where he would do a lot of hunting and trapping.

"He was one of the few that knew how to make snowshoes, dog sleds, drums and many more traditional things."

Joe held many jobs and did many things over his years, including running the mail to Eagle, Alaska, working for the RCMP, guiding the cat trains that staked out the route of the Dempster Highway (which some feel should be renamed for him) and leading Dick North's expedition to find the lost cabin of Jack London in the 1960s.

"Joe was," she concluded, a kind and giving man. He did not like to see anyone go without and he opened his heart and home to everyone. Joe loved to laugh, sing, drum and share his stories with all.

"Joe was well known both nationally and internationally and was well respected by all who knew him. He will be sadly missed by all."

Father John Tyrrell offered a sermon in which he recalled Joe and Annie's devotion to their faith. Just five years ago Joe was still walking to almost every Sunday morning service, Tyrrell said, often arriving as much as an hour early to meditate in the church.

Even as his faculties began to fail him in recent years, he would snap back to attention during the prayers and singing that Tyrrell conducted for him at his home. The sermon offered memories of a man who had reached the end of his time on earth and was ready, when he died, to move on to something else, something he was sure was there for him.

This, said Tyrrell, was the memorial service of a man who had been a Christian, and was therefore a celebration.

Archdeacon Ken Snider assisted with the Commendation near the closing of the service.

Family and friends of the Henry clan came from all communities in the territory from Old Crow to Whitehorse, and from Fort McPherson in the NWT.

The service and other proceedings were video taped for the family and for the Yukon Native Language Centre.

Editor's Note: In 1998 the Klondike Sun ran an extensive biography of Joe Henry in honour of his centennial. It was the work of our summer report of that year, Jocelyn Bell. We reprinted this piece in our news stand edition, but you can link to it from here. (June 12, 1998 online edition)


McDougall Sets Record for Time and Number of Wins

by Dan Davidson

Brian McDougall extended his streak of wins to nine, breaking the course record again this year. He took home$4400. Here he receives the trophy from Race Marshall John Borg and lead sponsor Dick Van Nostrand. Photo by Dan Davidson

Not much was made of the fact that Brian McDougall seemed to have beaten his own previous course record by about 27 minutes in this year's Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race. More notice was taken of the fact that the Whitehorse musher has now extended his run of first place finishes to an impressive nine. He seems to come either first (usually) or second (last year) whenever he runs the race and he is always the man to beat.

This year was a squeaker, however, with the margin of victory between McDougall and William Kleedehn being measured in mere minutes. McDougall completed the 210 mile race in a running time of 20 hours and 22 minutes (previous record being 20:49), while Kleedehn rolled in four minutes later, at 20:46.

That's a tight race between two tough competitors, and the nearest competition, Thomas Tetz, was just over an hour behind them, at 21:33.

McDougall was typically low key during his acceptance speech.

"It just felt like we were trying to stay ahead of Thomas," he told the packed hall at the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Community Hall on Saturday night.

There's a good deal of camaraderie in this race, and a good deal of joking too. Kleedehn was the mushers' choice for best sportsman among the pack, and he professed to be unable to see why.

"I love racing, everybody knows that. But if I have to stand in front of my dog team there tomorrow and explain that somebody gave me an award for being pretty damn good about things .....ho, ho, ho," he was unable to finish the thought as he considered the looks on their faces.

Thomas Tetz was also in for further honours, as he was the Veterinarians' Choice for best dog man, a choice which chief vet John Overell said had to come from the top ten but also from the perkiest team.

The Dawson Humane Society also appreciates good treatment of dogs, and Aedes Scheer presented their award to Amy Wright, who came in 11th place after having to make some tough, but good, choices about the welfare of her dogs. Since the prize money in this race doesn't start until 10th place ($250) that was a hard choice to make.

Rookie of the year was presented by Ranger John Mitchell to Hugh Neff, who managed a 6th place finish.

There were a few scratches in the race, and one of them was still out on the trail as the banquet wrapped up that night. The last musher to make it in arrived at the hall just minutes before the banquet began and she, Ingabritt Scholven of Alaska, was the winner of the Red Lantern Award.

There was one disqualification and three scratches this year, and a strict application of the rules meant that penalties shaved some time off even the top ten positions, so the race was actually a little faster than the official record might show. Committee chair Brent McDonald praised the officials, who job, he said, must sometimes feel a lot like being a fire hydrant at a dog convention.

Emcee Dick Van Nostrand was kept busy during the evening handing out door prizes and introducing speakers. The Percy banquet finally outgrew the conference room as his Downtown Hotel this year, but his sponsorship of the race continues regardless.


DeWolfe Committee Worried by its Own Success

by Dan Davidson

According to William Kleedehn, second place winner in this year's Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race, Dawson City is "dog mushing central."

Rookie of the Year Hugh Neff called Dawson "the Mecca of dog mushing."

2002 was a very successful year for the DeWolfe race. As an attraction it added a number of features that made it more interesting to watch. As an economic event it brought forty-five mushers, with assorted relatives and helpers, to town for a four night stay.

The committee even got a standing ovation at the banquet.

So how could anyone be worried? Can there be such a thing as too much success?

The answer, as anyone involved in a volunteer organization can tell you, is that success can indeed be daunting. It breeds the expectation that those who have been successful will stick around and continue to do the job, that the organization will maintain its momentum and actually improve on the event.

The current members of the Percy DeWolfe Race Committee have been doing just that for a number of years now. They picked up the general anniversary theme that has been driving Dawson for the last decade and added their own 25th anniversary last year, taking the prize money up to $25,000 and enticing 27 mushers to join in the fun on the 340 km (210 mile) race to Eagle, Alaska, and back.

So what do you do for an encore?

The committee's answer was to add a third race to the mix. They had been running a Saturday afternoon sprint race called the Klondike Challenge for several years now, a mere 10 mile stroll compared to the 24 hours (including layover time) it takes to run the Percy. This race, however, has been with pretty much the same crew that ran the big race, sort of an extended victory lap. This year there were 12 teams, including 8 that didn't run in the two longer races. The first five places paid out from $100 to $500. In order of finishing, the money went to Rocky Hartley, Braden Bennet, Harold Frost Junior, Brian McDougall and Peter Butteri.

The idea for the Percy Junior (named for the son of the original Iron Man Mail Carrier) was not to have a junior version of the full race, but to come up with something that shared some of the features of the senior event while helping to promote mushing for newer racers.

"The inaugural running of the Percy Junior race, from Dawson to Fortymile, overnighting and coming back, shows a lot of ingenuity and creativity in organizing a very unique race," said Race Marshall John Borg. "If the committee can keep this alive I think it's going to attract a whole lot of up and coming mushers who aren't ready to tackle the whole run to Eagle."

This year there were ten teams in the race, which paid out prizes of $100 to $500 for the top five spots. These went to Ken Anderson, Lincoln Seely, Harold Frost, Lucas Cramer and Sergei Serenko.

The Percy itself pays out down to tenth place, starting at $250 and adding $100 for each place up to fifth ($850). At fourth it jumps to $1100 and adds the same amount arithmetically up to the first place prize of $4400.

Those places were taken, in ascending order, by Michelle Phillips, Thomas Tetz, William Kleedehn and Brian McDougall.

The problem with all this success is that it eats up a lot of person hours, and the DeWolfe committee is shrinking along with the town, maybe even a little bit faster due to volunteer burnout. The president, Brent McDonald, announced his retirement last year, but ended up back at the helm again this year because there didn't seem to be anyone to carry on. His wife, Christine, also a mushing fan, handles a lot of the business end of things.

"Our race is growing, but our committee's getting smaller and the demands are getting more," he said in an interview after the banquet. "Amongst our committee we're going to have to come up with some kind of a solution to change the .... amount of time our committee members have to put in.

"Our committee works very efficiently for what we do, but it's mainly the committee that does everything. We need to get some of the work load off."

Organizing this three day event is a year round job, the biggest part of which is raising the funds for the prize money. Like many other volunteer groups the Percy people are out there staffing the barbecues at special events, running their own events, and trying to fit all this into their lives. Many of them are mushers who have found they barely have time now to pursue the sport themselves.

"I would have liked to have run in any of these races," McDonald said wistfully, "but with the organizing involved for this weekend there's no way I could have participated."

That's the challenge facing a lot of volunteer organizations. If things work out and you become an institution, how long will it be before you're riding a tiger and can't get off? Or in the case of the DeWolfe committee, how long before the sled dogs get away from you and the brakes don't work?


Trek Organizers Still Happy in Spite of Slight Decline

by Dan Davidson

Eric Zalitas and Laurie McCrory organize the Trek Over the Top every February. The machines parked here at the Eldorado are just the tip of the Trek. Photo by Dan Davidson

Total numbers for the four trips making up the Trek Over the Top experience were down this year for the first time since the trek began in 1993. On the third Destination: Dawson run this year there had been 190 registered and 168 actually made the trip. On the first two runs there were 140 and 190 trekkers,, respectively.

"We're down about 10 percent," said Trek organizer Eric Zalitas on the last weekend of the event.

As speculated earlier, Zalitas said that much of the loss - or absence of growth in an event that has been bigger each year - can be attributed to U.S. military personnel who were unable to follow through on their initial registrations due to the fallout from Sept. 11/01.

Zalitas also felt that he and his wife, Laurie McCrory, could probably do more to market the Trek.

"Usually this is a word of mouth event in Alaska," he explained, "but this year we found we need to make some changes. We'll be looking at more an different marketing next year to increase the numbers."

The goal is get each Destination: Dawson tour up to around 200 snowmobilers and the Destination: Tok run up to 100.

"It's one of those years where everybody's sort of hesitant about things."

Looking at other sources of visitors might be one solution, and Zalitas attended a snowmobile show in Edmonton recently where there was a lot of interest in his event.

"There are a couple of tour operators we're working on down south. They're based out of Canada but they go to the States, and we're just trying to say, 'Hey, come up to the Yukon.' Next year we're going to try to get them up here."

This year's Trek was very smooth as far as the run was concerned. There wasn't as much snow as there has been, so the trail was smooth and there were a lot fewer dangerous spots. Unlike last year there were no nasty spills and only a few dumps into the ditch.

After three trips of 150 or more machines going over it, the trail tends to get a little rough. Zalitas would like to have access to a groomer to take out some of the bumps between trips.

"I know this will enhance the event because people like to have the groomed trail. I know that we could increase the numbers of people coming in."

While in Dawson the trekkers have a busy schedule which includes, of course, evenings at Diamond Tooth Gerties. They arrive in Dawson on Thursday afternoon, and have the rest of that day to themselves.

On Friday they have a tour up to the Midnight Dome, up to the Fire Tour and out onto the creeks.

On a clear day it's a great view from the Dome.

"They're very happy because they can see where they come from. We hear a lot of 'I did that?'"

On the third Friday the lunch was hosted at the Eldorado Hotel and supper was a barbecue put on by the Dawson City Firefighters' Association at Gerties. Entertainment at the casino included an Outside comic, the snowshoe can-can line from Whitehorse and some of the members of this year's Palace Grand cast.

In addition, both the Museum and the Odd Gallery were open to the visitors.

On the last Saturday the Dawson Sled Dawgs held a poker rally for the visitors, the group from Stephan Lake, AK, held its annual parade through the town, and everyone attended another banquet at Gerties.

Of course, there was lots of shopping, as always. The Trekkers leave a lot of US dollars behind them when they pass through. About twenty-one businesses coordinated a coupon booklet through the chamber of commerce as an incentive. Tickets were dropped off at all the participating stores and prizes of gold jewelry were drawn for on the final night.

One of the features at Gerties was a snowmobile Olympics, during which the lady trekkers had to change a belt on a snowmobile in front of a live audience.

"We just try to keep them busy and help them to have a good time."

Apparently, in spite of dire predications to the contrary, the effort is still succeeding.


Five Watchers on a Cross Country Adventure

by Palma Berger

The Five Watchers stand on alert in the back of Peter's truck. Photo by Palma Berger

There were five male figures standing on the back of the blue 1984 pick-up outside KIAC. They had been carved from spruce, burnt and their charred bodies have stood guard over many locations across Canada. Their history was revealed at a slide show presented by Peter von Tiesenhausen at KIAC.

Von Tiesenhausen had worked in mining camps in the Dawson area until 1990. Here he had pursued his art. His slides showed paintings of Doug Stubbs, Pa Telep, Ione and Paul Mahoney. Then on to one summer's stint in the Antarctic working for Pelly Construction. At this juncture wife Theresa put her foot down. So they returned to the 700-acre land his father had owned in Alberta. Here he set his goal to have a firm art career started by the time he was thirty.

They lived in a cabin. He found he needed a fence to keep the little one contained; so he began his fence made of willows just as Monet had in his garden. It took all summer and was 450 feet long, and somehow reminded him of a boat. Next he fashioned a boat from willow, and set it in the field. He carved the first figure and set it in the boat and set them on fire. The resulting charred body took on a character of its own.. This he set in a field where it brought different reactions from people. But always there was a reaction. This inspired the creation of the next four figures which were done in the same way. At this point there was a documentary done with Adrienne Clarkson as the hostess.

His work with willows continued as he created a 150-foot hollow tower on his property. Richmond gallery has a tornado created of willow, and another gallery has another boat of willow which takes on different dimensions from different viewing angles.

His property also has many of his creations on the land.

The idea for travelling with the figures came when he took one figure to Calgary strapped firmly in the back of his 1984 pickup. It generated much comment and feedback. If art is to arouse the imagination and create a new way of looking at things, he had succeeded with this one, so why not go further afield.

It was arranged to have the five figures on the roof of an art gallery in Calgary where they certainly changed the silhouette of the landscape, for a few months.

On again across Canada they traveled. Here it seems the pick-up and the figures became an entity; always being together. Whenever the pick-up chose a spot to have one of its frequent break-downs the figures went also. Along busy highways, under low bridges, across the bridge to P.E.I., always generating comment as they went.

Finally in Newfoundland they had a rest again. Here they were set up on a cliff overlooking the stormy ocean. They always attracted volunteers to help in the difficult task of setting them up. While here for the few months, their uninhabited outpost was visited by scores of people each day, but there wasn't a scratch of vandalism done to these unprotected figures.

The next journey was accomplished through a chain of coincidences and luck as they were put on an ice-breaker to Tuktoyuktuk. They stood on the bridge the whole way. The off-loading in Tuk was a bit rough and one figure lost his legs. This is now repaired and unburnt. Von Tiesenhausen journeyed to Tuk in the blue pick-up and picked them up. Again the pick-up broke down in Dawson. From Dawson they began their journey south back to Alberta. Get your friends to watch for them along the way. It may help to enquire about any blue 1984 pick-ups breaking down in their area.


Festival Attendance has Tripled in Three Years

by Dan Davidson

The attendance keeps climbing for the annual Dawson City International Short Film Festival. Photo by Dan Davidson

The problem with successful festivals is that the work doesn't end when the event does, so the day after the 2002 Dawson City International Film Festival David Curtis was busy returning chairs and cleaning up the physical evidence.

"Tired but happy" is a cliché, but it described the festival director's mood quite well.

Attendance was fantastic, he said. The first year the festival was held about 400 people watched the screenings. In the second year that doubled and this year it hit 1375.

That doesn't mean that over a thousand people came to town to attend the festival. There were 135 weekend passes sold plus lots of single tickets. The Oddfellows' Hall seats 155. There were ten screenings.

That means that the hall was quite full for every screening. There were never less than 86 in the hall, Curtis recalled.

In terms of attendance, there were about 60 people registered from Whitehorse, and a number from Old Crow, Inuvik and as far away as Vancouver Island, Toronto and Sidney, Australia.

The lead film was absolutely sold out. Troy Suzuki's 70 minute record of the Dawson City Nugget's Hockey Adventure, "From Moccasin Square Gardens" played to a packed house at the Oddfellows' Hall on Friday night and was repeated at Diamond Tooth Gerties the next evening.

Submissions were up this year as well. The committee received submissions from 95 film makers who wanted to show their material in Dawson. From those, 46 were chosen, including material created locally during the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture's video production course last fall. In addition, another clutch of local videos was produced during KIAC's "Introduction to Film Making" workshops and by the KIAC/Yukon College Arts for Employment class. There were 55 films in total.

Besides the many films from Dawson and lots from the Yukon generally, the festival had material from Ontario, B.C., Saskatchewan, Quebec, Iran, Great Britain, Norway, Israel, France, Spain, and the USA.

In addition there was a workshop on internet broadcasting during the day on Saturday and a panel discussion called "The Yukon Voice: Finding an Audience" on Sunday.

"We've had great feedback from the program this year," Curtis said, noting especially that the Suzuki film just left everyone on an emotional high.

"One person was saying that this is comparable to any film festival she'd attended anywhere.

"A guy from Vancouver island (Glen Sanford) told me he was just totally thrilled with the experience. He came to almost every screening. A film maker from Australia (Andrew Vial) said incredible things about the people here and the festival."

The festival was well covered too, with attention from the Whitehorse papers, local CBC and a freelance reporter on assignment for the Globe and Mail.

According to Curtis the "Local Yokels" section of the festival is always one of the highlights, especially with locals themselves. A number of the new videographers turned out in Yukonized Academy Awards finery (furs and weird winter stuff) just to mark the occasion.

"The place was packed," he said. "It's always great for people to see their work in the context of this international stuff. And a lot of it holds up to the stuff we're showing in the regular program."

The Made in the Yukon (MITY) award was inaugurated last year and expanded this year to include first time film makers.

Whitehorse's Andrew Connors won the professional award with his "Shipyards Lament," an account of the destruction of one of the older and less urbanized sections of Whitehorse.

Dawson's Andrea MacRae won in the Student/First Time Film Maker category with her spoof "Mating Habits of the Northern Homo Sapiens," which Curtis described as having a kind of "Hinterland Who's Who" flavour.


The First Blades of Spring

by Dan Davidson

The first blades of spring in this town are not grass. Photo by Dan Davidson

The tricklings started to sound on my roof
as the longer sun warms up the snow.
You can see vapor rise in the heat of the day,
even though it is still 10 below.

The snow on my deck railing twists and turns,
deformed by the uneven heat.
I check it whenever I'm going and coming.
The day's changes always look neat.

The first blades of spring in this town are not grass,
but shovels and graders and cats.
The shovels are taking the loads off our roofs
while machines are out working the flats.

Yes, they've started to scrape the snow off the main streets.
The five figure cost is alarming,
but I know that the melt damage would be much worse,
and our streets can't take that much more harming.

You see machines scraping and digging all over,
Street levels drops more than a foot.
There's still some concern from a few local folks
over where all that "white stuff" gets put.

So while it's still winter out in my backyard,
the streets all turn brown. Lawd 'a mercy!
They had to truck snow to the Palace Grand
so the dogsleds could run in the Percy.

April 1992 (Some things don't change much)


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