Dawson City, Yukon Friday, April 25, 2003

The return of Old Baldy. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Old Baldy Returns
Dawson Council Announces Budget and Community Grants
YTG Joins Dawson in Court Appeal
Businesses Challenged to Match Convention Dollars
Klondike River Jam Poses Break-up Concerns
YTG and City of Dawson Reaching Waste Management Cost Agreement
Seasonal Food Programs Prepare for 2003
Peter Ledwidge on the Trail
From Drawing Computers to Drawing with Computers
Review: Wanted - Not Your Typical "Follies" Goldrush Play
Women's Shelter Victorious
Library News

Welcome to the April 25, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 22 photographs and 26 articles that were in the 24 page April 22 hard copy edition.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, the Fraser's Edge and obviously, all the other material you won't find here.

This edition is VERY late getting to the web because our editor, who selects all the material to send to our webmaster for posting, has been out of town a lot lately.

We encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun. It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. I usually tell you how many people read the last online issue, but our counter program crashed just after it passed the 50,100 mark and it was a few days before we noticed. Since it was reset there have been 225 additional hits on the site. That would mean that 384 people read out last issue and that about 75,484 have visited us since we went online in March 1996.

Anybody Got a Loonie?

If every person who logged onto this website would send us a loonie, we'd be able to pay off the lease on our new laser printer in just a few issues. Seriously folks, since the beginning of this year there are more of you reading this digest edition of the Sun than there are reading the real thing on paper.

Old Baldy Returns

by Dan Davidson

It's just under a year since a bald eagle caused minor traffic jams on 2nd Avenue and other streets in Dawson while checking the place out for an afternoon.

Either he's back again, a couple of days early, or some other eagle has chosen the same flight path.

This year's traveller chose a tall tree on 3rd Avenue for his perch and was content to stay there for several hours, just swiveling his head around, taking in the scenery, disdainful of the humans beneath him pointing with their cameras.

He was spotted around 11 o'clock by members of the senior art class at the Robert Service School, who were out on the streets shooting some real and digital images for their projects.

Bonnie Barber, the school's secretary, says that she remembers seeing eagles a lot during this time of year when she was a child. Other folks out shooting pictures while this one was being taken said that the appearance of an eagle in town is supposed to be a sign of good luck for the coming summer.

Maybe that means the tourists will come again and the Department of Fisheries will change its decision on the Yukon Placer Authorization, Holland-America will include the Palace Grand Theatre in its tour package again and the Women's Shelter will get its $50 thousand back.


Dawson Council Announces Budget and Community Grants

by Dan Davidson

"It's the third budget I've been involved in and the sky hasn't fallen yet," said councillor Wayne Potoroka as Dawson's council concluded the public introduction of its operations and maintenance budget for 2003 on April 1.

The first reading of the annual budget bylaw is just intended to get the document into the public domain, so details were sparse at the April 1 council meeting, but it was clear that the spreadsheets balanced and that fiscal disaster was not around the corner.

The only tax increases contemplated have been for the business sector and form part of an initiative requested by the Klondike Visitors Association and the Chamber of Commerce to find ways to increase business by attracting conventions to the region. This will be money which will have no impact on the town's general revenue as it will be designated to go with funds already set aside by the KVA in its budget process during March.

While the town is attempting to keep its budget lean and mean, trimming internal town operations as it has every year for the last six without raising residential taxes, council is involved in funding arrangements with a number of organizations in the community and has most of them at their current levels.

The only program cut by council was a request for $8,000 to support the RCMP Horse and Rider program, a popular attraction in the town during the summer months. The business community loves this program, and they are going to have to find a way to fund it.

The Dawson Museum has already received a $10,000 grant for this year.

Under the cost sharing agreement it has with the Chamber of Commerce, the city will grant it $36,000 out of the business licence fees it collects annually. This is about 80% of that total.

The Dawson City Humane Society will receive money in two ways. It gets a $10,000 operating grant and then $50,000 animal control contract with a 10% administration fee, for a total of $65,000.

The Dawson City Arts Society is in the third year of a funding commitment from the council for a total of $80,000 this year, of which it has already received $40,000. Council discussions since the announcement that the Yukon government has doubled its operating grant for DCAS to $250,000 indicate that the city might not be so willing to negotiate such a rich sum for arts society in the future, but members indicated that they felt signed contracts ought to be honoured.

In future, though, it might be necessary to extend funding to agencies in crisis due to territorial government cut-backs, like the Dawson Women's' Shelter, which recently had $50,000 removed from the third year of its signed contract with the government.

Council has also put $3,000 in seed money into the Friends of the Placer Miner lobby administered by the Klondike Placer Miners' Association to battle the crisis created by the suspension of the Yukon Placer Authorization by the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Robert Thibault.

Aside from grants, the town does provide a lot of in-kind assistance to organizations and events here. A list circulated at the April 1 meeting runs to three pages and includes things like setting up parade routes, making sure that there's snow on the route for the Percy DeWolfe race, setting up venues, hosting fees for special events and many other things.

After second reading of the budget there will be a public meeting to discuss the details.

"You will," said the mayor, "be able to hear about surpluses that we had last year, (and) new reserves that we've started, including one for the second floor of the recreation centre."


YTG Joins Dawson in Court Appeal

by Dan Davidson

When Mayor Glen Everitt announced on April 1 that the town would not be appealing the ruling by Judge Heino Lilles in regard to its court case with the Department of Fisheries, he was not making an April Fools joke.

Nevertheless, it was less than two weeks later that the media began reporting that the City of Dawson was appealing the ruling.

How did that happen?

Glen Everitt explained the matter at the April 15 council meeting. Council had never been comfortable with Judge Lilles' decision, especially that part of it in which the judge had set times and deadlines for the construction of the secondary sewage treatment plant which has been in the works for the last four years.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities took a look at that decision and concluded that the judge had treated the municipality as if it were a "commercial 'for profit' corporation when it comes to sentencing for the deposit of deleterious substances pursuant to the Fisheries Act."

Council decided, however, that it really couldn't afford to pursue this any further, even though it didn't agree with the sentence and was quite certain that it would be unable to meet the September 2004 deadline.

Enter the territorial government, where there had also been some thinking going on about the impact of the Lilles' ruling. From YTG's point of view the judge was extending his authority into an area where the territorial government already had jurisdiction.

In the case of the dispute between Dawson and the DFO, it is the Yukon Territorial Water Board which addresses the issue of water licences and stipulations.

The territorial government contacted Dawson's council and requested that it launch an appeal. Everitt responded that the town really couldn't afford the action and would only consider it if the government picked up the legal bills.

The government agreed to do that and further agreed that it would be front and centre in the process so that it would be clear what was happening. Reports so far have tended to make it look as if Dawson was acting alone, but Everitt wanted to make it clear on April 15 that this is not the case.


Businesses Challenged to Match Convention Dollars

by Dan Davidson

Can Dawson City, seen here from the ice bridge, become a year round centre for convention business? It will take money to find out. The KVA and the city council have found some funding. Businesses have been challenged to find the rest. Photo by Dan Davidson

The City of Dawson has come up with some of the funding it was asked to provide to support the development of a Klondike convention marketing program in conjunction with the Klondike Visitors Association and the Dawson Chamber of Commerce.

The challenge to businesses in town is that only half of the $12.5 thousand will be released to the KVA now and businesses will have to match that amount before the town with release the rest.

This is the final solution to a thorny problem which has seen the council seeking ways to raise money to support economic growth in the area during tough times. There has been a mayor's committee report, two distinct proposals for raising the money through tax and licence fees, and two public meetings on the issue in the last month.

There was a general consensus, expressed through the mayor's committee, which brought down a late report to council, that marketing conventions in Dawson would be a good thing to attempt. The report recommended that the town fund the initiative in conjunction with the KVA, which set aside $25,000 in its budget for this purpose.

A temporary convention coordinator was hired by the KVA last year, working with money contributed by itself, along with $10,000 from both the YTG and the City of Dawson, but that was a one-time set-up and something more permanent needed to be established.

The town was not asked by either organization to raise taxes or fees to find the money, but council didn't see another solution when it came to finding $25,000 in a municipal budget which was already lean. Its final proposal was a 3% hike in business taxes and a surcharge on business licenses in tourism related establishments.

On April 14, however, Mayor Glen Everitt threw that whole plan out the window, telling a public meeting at the YOOP Hall that council had received too many complaints, too many indications that no one wanted to foot the bill. Residents opposed an across the board tax increase to support business, and many businesses opposed an increase on their own fees to support themselves.

"All our proposal seems to have done is to pit people against each other," the mayor said. So council was going to vote it down at its regular meeting the next night.

He went on to state that council generally felt that businesses should be prepared to contribute to this plan if they wanted to be part of it: "People should pay to play."

There wasn't much disagreement in the room on that, but some of those present seemed to assume that the KVA could simply pick up the bill. The KVA's marketing manager, Wendy Burns, pointed out that the organization has already put up $25,000 as well as much more money within its advertising budget, but that there were limits.

Anyone examining the KVA projected budget for this year would quickly see that it is not rolling in money. A lot of its activities either break even or lose money in order to attract visitor interest here. Like the town, it has been trimming spending for several years now. To make the convention coordinator a year round position, governed by a separate board, but under the KVA umbrella, it was going to need more cash.

After a debate that was sometimes repetitive, sometimes anguished and sometimes stirring, there was a general resolve to put together a board composed of representatives of the KVA, Chamber and the town for the purpose of getting started.

As Jon Magnusson (Dawson City Bed and Breakfast) put it, the agency would have to start slow, prove itself, and might only be able to represent those businesses that were willing to buy into it.

Boyd Gillis (Northern Superior Mechanical) referred to the project as a kind of "litmus test", saying that the town was too dependent on government money at all levels and needed to do something for itself.

At the close of that meeting, the town council was not going to put anything into the convention scheme (beyond the hosting fees and services in kind which it provides all the time anyway) but by the next night council had been persuaded to come up with $12.5 thousand, with the proviso that businesses find their own way to match it.

In addition, $10,000 was set aside to assist the KVA in advertising and marketing.


Klondike River Jam Poses Break-up Concerns

by Dan Davidson

In December the ice seemed to threaten this bridge. If melt and break-up conditions are bad, the bridge could still be in danger in a few weeks. Photo by Dan Davidson

The odd thawing and freezing of the Klondike River last December could mean that this year's break-up might be tempestuous, according to John Mitchell, Dawson's emergency measures coordinator.

Federal officials carried out an assessment of the remnant of the Klondike River ice jam on April 2 and 3, 2003.

The jam is the result of an early winter break-up triggered by the unusually warm weather during that period. Water levels rose dramatically at that time, to within a few metres of the bottom of the Klondike River Bridge.

According to the study by R. Janowicz and G. Ford "the toe of the ice jam is grounded on a shallow, braided reach of the Klondike River approximately 0.5 km upstream of the Yukon River confluence, and extends upstream approximately 3 km to a point 1 km above the Klondike Highway bridge.

Mitchell's report goes on to say, "A survey of the ice jam indicated that the maximum water level during the jam was generally 2 m below the bank and 2.5 m below the bridge. The water level was over the bank in a few lower elevation areas.

The potential problem facing the area in late April or early May is that "the ice jam has since refrozen and become integrated with new ice formation creating "jumble" ice with thickness up to 3 m.

"The ice surface has generally dropped 1 m from the maximum ice jam water level. Flow beneath the ice, along the thalwag (NOTE: the line connecting the lowest or deepest points along the riverbed) of the main channel, has eroded the underside of the ice surface. The ice thickness along the thalwag varies from 0.6 to 1.3 m with approximately 0.5 m depth of flow."

This jumble ice is said to be thick and well grounded, and it could restrict up to 80% of the channel cross section. If the run-off from melt water is high and comes too soon or too quickly, the channel will not contain it before the ice gives way, so flooding could be the result.

"Flood prone areas," says Mitchell's release, "include portions of the Klondike Highway immediately downstream of the highway bridge, mining properties (with residences) adjacent the highway and 0.5 km upstream of the Trans North Helicopter pad.

"The new Tr'ondëk (C-4) subdivision downstream of the highway, though higher than other locations, may also be affected.

"The flooding potential would be lessened with a thermal break-up resulting from a from a gradual, extended snow melt period. Such a scenario would cause the ice cover to weaken and deteriorate in place.

"Trenching or other works would likely be ineffective in reducing the potential severity of flooding."

At this time, break-up of the Klondike River is expected to occur during the last week in April.


YTG and City of Dawson Reaching Waste Management Cost Agreement

by Dan Davidson

It looks like the City of Dawson won't have to cut off water and sewer services to territorial government buildings after all. The move, which was scheduled to have begun on April 30, but news that YTG is willing to settle the matter of outstanding waste management fees has caused council to rescind that order.

The fees in question were for costs at the Quigley Landfill. In town these are covered by an annual waste management charge on utility bills. Klondike Valley users were supposed to be covered by a transfer from the territorial government of part of the taxes that YTG collects in the valley. This has never happened in the five years since it was originally arranged, with the result that the territory owes Dawson somewhere between $60,000 and $137,000.

The council discussion on April 15 was in the range of $100,000, allowing for vacant lots and undeveloped land in the region, but it is still a hefty sum, one that the town's auditors recently recommended that council write down as "uncollectable" in the accounts receivable portion of the books.

Council found this an unacceptable option and decided to penalize YTG in hopes of focussing attention on the matter.

After discussions in Whitehorse the week after the council made its decision, Mayor Glen Everitt received a letter from the senior manager of community services, Ken Hodgins, indicating that:

"I can confirm that the department is prepared to work with the City of Dawson to resolve this matter. The staff of the Community Development Branch will be contacting the city office in the near future to continue with these discussions."

"That call came today," Everitt said.

Hodgins letter went on to state that the "key elements of the agreement on appropriate arrangements seem already to be established and a process to arrive at a common understanding will conclude an arrangement."

Councillor Wayne Potoroka expressed some skepticism, noting that conciliatory noises have been made about this issue before without resolution.

Everitt recalled that within the last few months the city's treasurer had been told by someone in the community services department to "stop sending us this invoice because we're tired of throwing it in the garbage."

Councillor Byrun Shandler argued for a quick payment from YTG and insisted that a time line for at least a progress report on the situation be established. It was agreed that July 15 would be an acceptable date.


Seasonal Food Programs Prepare for 2003

Last year's food bank program at Saint Mary's Catholic Church attracted a lot of interest. Photo submitted

Dawson City's Seasonal Food Bank is preparing for its seventh season, and is once again looking for donations of food and cash.

There will be no door-to-door food drive, but individuals are encouraged to contribute groceries, either by dropping them off at St. Mary's (Fifth and King), or by calling 993-5361 for pickup. Tax receipts will be given for cash donations.

The Food Bank operates out of St. Mary's Church. Now entering its seventh season, it offers one-time emergency grocery assistance to those in a tight financial spot.

In 2002 the resources of the Food Bank were adequate for the need; Dawson was not overwhelmed by unemployed transient workers, as it was in the late 90's. However, there are always some individuals who find that jobs promised early in the summer do not actually begin until the tourist flow is established, and that their first cheque may be delayed until they have worked several weeks. The Food Bank bridges the gap, allowing most of these individuals to avoid the process (and tax payer expense) of turning to Social Services. In fact, every spring a number of individuals first hear of the Food Bank from other agencies.

The other program offered is a weekly community supper, which soon will begin for the season. Every Tuesday evening for around 6 weeks a simple hot meal is provided for all who show up-primarily the transient workers new to town, with a sprinkling of locals. The gatherings also give Dawson agencies an opportunity to welcome and communicate with the newcomers, and a number of individuals (conservation officers, nurses, recreation programmers, volunteer coordinators) traditionally give presentations. The suppers also operate out of St. Mary's, with the cooperation of St. Paul's Anglican Church and the Dawson Community Chapel as well as a number of generous community volunteers.

These meals are made possible by the generosity of a squad of volunteer cooks who prepare something for one or several of the suppers. Those interested in cooking or supplying food can call 993-5361.


Peter Ledwidge on the Trail

by Peter Ledwidge

Tanner Sidney created this poster to celebrate the Yukon Quest.

Well, now that mushing season has come to an end, I have time to share my experiences on the 2003 Yukon Quest. Contrary to last year, when everything went wrong, this year the race went quite well for myself and my dogs. Without giving away training secrets, I believe this was partly due to my different training regime, as well as good luck. I also owe many thanks to out vet, Dr. John Overell. He, Ann and I dissected last year's race to find insights to what went wrong. John gave us some good advice and whatever formula we came up with, it seemed to work.

The race started in Whitehorse this year. Although this was my fourth running of the race, it was my first time starting in Whitehorse. This was a psychological booster for me because a Fairbanks start the year after I scratched would have brought back unpleasant memories. My goal this year was to finish with a healthy team and to have fun, (although one's idea of fun can be debatable when mushing and camping at -50oC!!). In addition to these goals, I was thinking that a top ten finish would be a bonus.

The weather was extremely warm for the first half of the race, which made dehydration a serious concern. The trail was bad between Whitehorse and Scroggie Creek, due to lack of snow. It was so bad that it forced race officials to cancel the section between Braeburn and Carmacks. Although it took away a little bit of the magic of running the entire 1000 miles without interruption, it was definitely a good call. As I was travelling between Carmacks and Pelly Crossing I thought to myself, "Wow, if this isn't the bad part of the trail, I'd hate to see the section that was omitted." From Carmacks to Scroggie, there were sections with very little snow, which, compounded with the fact that we had rain this winter, (which bent all the willows into a tunnel) made the trail treacherous for everyone. Thomas Tetz got a stick in the eye. I had a few slaps to the face myself. From Scroggie on, the trail was very good as the snow conditions were much better. I would like to backtrack to Pelly and give the volunteers a tip of the hat for having improved that checkpoint tremendously. The only complaint from the mushers was that the rooms assigned for sleeping were too comfortable! Jimmi Hendricks was delirious when he saw the shower! I ran the stretch from Scroggie to Dawson in three runs compared to everyone else, who did it in two runs. This cost me some time in extra rest for the dogs, but it was concurrent with my race plan of coming into Dawson with a large well rested team. My second break from Scroggie was at Mark Peirson's place. He and Sybil offered excellent hospitality for any musher who chose to accept it. I arrived in Dawson with eleven healthy dogs. I dropped one there, a yearling who had worked hard but was played out. It's very easy to sour a yearling if you push them too hard, so I had to be careful, because I had three yearlings in my team of 14, because of my small kennel size.

The dogs rested, were fed, massaged and generally pampered during my 36 hour mandatory layover in Dawson. I owe many thanks to my wife Ann for going without sleep, while I was recuperating for the next leg of the journey.

I left Dawson at two in the morning in a snowstorm. It reminded me of the 1992 Quest, before I had dogs, when I was volunteering to check teams out of Dawson when weather conditions were identical. I remember thinking to myself "I'm glad I'm not going into that storm, those mushers must be crazy." Well this time it was me and yes, I believe that mushers certainly didn't invent the light bulb! The wind was so strong that I had to stop to adjust my dog blankets because the wind was blowing them off my dogs. Being a Dawson musher is not necessarily an advantage in the Quest. My dogs had already balked at the turnoff on King Solomon Dome because they knew the way home from there. Now as I was leaving Dawson, they were, to say the least, reluctant to leave. They tried turning around in the slough by Moosehide, and generally would find any excuse to stop or slow down. It was a very slow run to Fortymile, after which they knew that we weren't going back to Dawson. About fifteen miles out of Dawson I could see the edge of the storm front. The temperature plummeted in a matter of minutes. I was traveling with Frank Turner and he asked me how cold I thought it was. I answered, "Well my thermometer goes to -30C and it's buried." By the time we got to Fortymile it was -43C according to Sebastien and Shelley's thermometer. They also advised us that it would be -50C on the Fortymile River as it is notoriously cold. The 50 mile run up the Fortymile was needless to say a chilly one. Even while I was taking involuntary power naps on the sled I would wake up to find myself still peddling in order not to freeze my feet. I had a hole in the bladder of one of my bunny boots, so it was tantamount to wearing a rubber boot at -50. I had to stop frequently to put fresh hand warmers in my boot. I eventually had to resort to putting them right in my sock, as the heat would not penetrate. It was quite a challenge because at those temperatures you can't leave an already frozen foot exposed for very long, and of course, you can't do this with mittens on. This was to be the trend for the next few days, and although it cost me a few hours over the course of the race I avoided serious frostbite and finished the race with all my fingers and toes. At one cabin, forty miles out of Eagle, it took over half and hour for my foot to thaw. Had I had a slower dog team, I am not sure if my foot would have made it without serious frostbite. I also avoided any frostbite to my dogs thanks to booties and the custom made dog blankets that Riley Brennan made for me.

The next few hundred miles were much the same scenario. My concern was to climb the notorious Eagle Summit. I had gone down it, and that in itself is an adrenaline rush. Imagine a black diamond downhill ski run with a dozen eager dogs wanting to go even faster, and you'll grasp the concept. Jimmi Hendricks told me, "Whatever you do when you're climbing, don't stop." Eagle Summit has been the downfall of many a musher on the Quest. Surprisingly the climb was easy, probably due to the fact that I train extensively in hills. I did have to stop a few times though, as a yearling was constantly trying to eat discarded booties on the trail. (I eventually had to drop her thirty miles from the finish line because she wasn't pulling well any more. The day after the race she expelled half a dozen booties.) At this point I was in tenth place, and having cut my rest by a couple of hours between Circle and Central, I had my sight on passing Dan Kaduce who was several hours ahead of me. I caught up to him after Eagle Summit and the race was on for the next 150 miles. We left Angel Creek together, after a white knuckle ride down Rosebud Summit where neither one of us could slow our team down. This was more than an adrenaline ride, it was downright scary! After leaving Angel Creek we passed each other several times but I held on to my schedule of snacking the dogs every hour. I lost him by doing that but caught up to him and passed him about 65 miles from the finish. I pedaled non-stop for the next eight or nine hours and beat him by seventeen minutes and came into Fairbanks in ninth place. I finished with eight dogs (dropped another one at Angel Creek because he was tired). I had no sickness or significant injuries and yes, I did have fun.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me this year. (Please see the ad in this issue). I'm already looking forward to next year's race. Two other Dawson mushers have expressed their intent to run the Quest next year, so Dawson should be well represented in the race. Thanks again Dawson.

P.S Thanks to Wendy Burns and Justine MacKeller for the warm Dawson welcome. I carried that garter all the way to the finish line!


From Drawing Computers to Drawing with Computers

by Dan Davidson

Jan Thornhill writes for adults as well as for children. Photo by Dan Davidson

Jan Thornhill's career as a children's book author and illustrator came about somewhat by accident. She hadn't been told it was supposed to take a long time and be difficult. For her it wasn't. Her first book, The Wildlife ABC, came out in 1988. marking the end of ten years spent in the toils of commercial illustration, drawing lots of electronic equipment in a photo realistic style and getting very bored.

The commercial illustration came about as the result of taking a fine arts course at the Ontario College of Art, specialising in experimental art, film and video and suddenly discovering that there was no market for what she had learned.

She says she "sat down, made up a portfolio, took it around to the magazines and found some work."

Not too surprisingly, she approached her career change the same way, actually writing and illustrating the book before seeking a publisher. Fortunately they liked it and asked her to do another, working with a theme of numbers in a similar style.

Since then the books have followed steadily, one every two or three years.

At her reading on March 25 at the Dawson Community Library, the latest Berton House writer in residence showed slides of her work and explained how they were created.

For her children's books she cultivated a style based on the use of scratch boards. After a few years, she began to develop wrist problems as a result of the constant repetitive motion used to create in this style. Drawing 1,000 tadpoles in one of her books probably didn't help her at all, nor did the detailed drawings of maple leaves for 1992's A Tree in a Forest.

Fearing loss of the use of her wrist, she sought other means of working, and discovered that she could produce very effective work using a computer. Her most recent children's book, The Rumor - A Jataka Tale (2002), was created using a computer, working from scans of drawings that she first made by hand, and layering them or adjusting them to make the final images. She showed several slides of pictures at different stages of creation to demonstrate how it worked. The result is just as distinctive and detailed as her earlier work.

Thornhill has also dabbled in adult fiction, and has a collection of short stories, Drought and Other Stories, which appeared in 2000. In addition to her slide show she read a tale from this book.

The audience wasn't large, but everyone was captivated by the work and the insight into how things are produced.

Jan Thornhill will be at Berton House until late May.


Review: Wanted - Not Your Typical "Follies" Goldrush Play

by Dan Davidson

Vanessa Holmes, Tom Scholte, James McCullough, Brian Fidler, Amanda Leslie and Keith Wyatt were the cast of "Wanted", which wrapped up its Yukon tour in the town where it was born on April 5. Author Sally Clark is the one in the middle.

Possible leads for a review of Sally Clark's "Wanted":

"Wanted" is a play dark enough to make you wonder why anyone would have come to the Klondike during the Gold Rush in the first place and how anyone managed to survive it. It touches depths of human sorrow that you'd almost rather not see.

"Wanted" is a play that will leave you chuckling to yourself long after you leave the theatre. There are moments that have you laughing out loud. The physical comedy in the bar scene alone is worth the price of admission.

As you can see from those two possibilities, "Wanted" is a bit tough to critique.

If one wanted to say only nice things, one could mention the deft direction, clever staging, and effective musical design which added so much to the production, while wondering how they got so much mileage out of a pole, some rope, buckets, boxes and a few pieces of lumber. A travelling set indeed!

One could also say that it was a long play, made longer by the straight -backed seating in the Palace Grand Theatre, while at the same time saying that the Palace Grand was a perfect setting for a play about Dawson, inspired by Dawson, and written at Berton House by the writer most in residence so far.

Sally Clark came to Berton House to write a novel to get away from the stage for a while. That project, The Luck of the Spinozas, has been finished, but it seems that another story "Wanted" to get written in between.

Sally house-sat Berton House last year, having been playwright -in-residence at Nakai Theatre in Whitehorse in the season before. At that point she resumed her browsing of library at the residence and came up with a collection of quirky tales about strong women. Then, at the urging of Nakai's Michael Clark, she wove them into this play.

In a nutshell, the play tells the story of Mary Potter (Vanessa Holmes), a desperate young woman who answers an ad to go to the Yukon as a potential miner's bride and ends up the only survivor of a whirlpool wrecked scow in Miles Canyon.

She is rescued by Jack Malone (Brian Fidler) and, over the objections of his half-brother, Joe McAllister (Tom Scholte), accompanies the two men on their trek to Dawson, proving an apt hand at cooking and packing equipment.

We watch the campground get moved about the stage several times while a pantomime sequence portrays the trip along the river and tensions grow among the two men and the woman. Some of this is hilarious, while some of it is dark and gritty. These unresolved relationships are temporarily set aside at the end of Act 1, when they arrive safely in Dawson.

Safely arrived they may be, but the claims are all gone, there's a food shortage, there's little work and some people are clamouring to get out. Some men are so desperate they even raise money by participating as the victim in a so-called "special entertainment" that involves getting almost hung in front of an audience munching donuts and drinking coffee.

Not these three. The men eventually find a claim and work it. Mary becomes Gilded Lilly, a dancer in a saloon run by a woman named Gertie (Amanda Leslie) who has a diamond tooth.

Separated for a time, the three have a number of adventures involving other characters in the town, most of them played by the versatile James McCullough and Keith Wyatt in a variety of costumes.

When they begin to encounter each other again the play chugs into its dark high gear and roars toward a conclusion that leaves you wondering if there could ever be redemption in such a time and place.

Ethically unresolved endings in the midst of funny dialogue are not at all strange in the work of Sally Clark, who has written plays with titles like Life Without Instruction and Ten Ways to Abuse an Old Woman. Some of the scenes I have heard her read from her novel-in-progress while she lived here were filled with that "I've just hit my funny bone and I can't decide whether to laugh or cry" feeling.

In the end, however, I'd have to say it's good play. It'll probably get trimmed down to size before it travels very far, but I was glad to see the playwright's cut.


Women's Shelter Victorious

Open letter to the Citizens of Dawson

The Board and staff at the Women's Shelter would like to extend our sincerest appreciation to all the people who assisted us in our recent efforts to have our funding restored for this fiscal year. With your help WE DID IT !!! The Yukon Territorial Government, through the Department of Health & Social Services, has agreed to honour the existing contribution agreement. This will allow us to continue to operate as we have been, on a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week basis, and to continue to provide our programs to the community. We have also been given the option of developing additional programs to meet the needs of the community. We will present some of these ideas at our AGM in May.

Our thanks go out to everyone who supported us during this funding crisis. In particular, we would like to thank the Mayor and the Chief for their letter to the minister, the City of Dawson for the use of it's all important back page of the Sun, those individuals who turned out to our public meeting, everyone who took around the petitions or allowed them to be placed in their establishments, and everyone who signed the petitions or wrote to the minister or to the paper on our behalf. This was truly a community effort, and one with a very successful outcome. We couldn't have done it without you.

As a token of our appreciation, we are hosting an afternoon tea at the Shelter on April 26th, 2 pm to 5pm. Please drop by, let us thank you in person, take a look at our resource library, talk to the staff and have a brownie on us!!

Louise Blanchard
Dawson Shelter Society.


Library News

by Anne Saunders

The next time you visit the Library, look up at the lovely paintings that are now gracing some of our walls. The "Cover the Walls Project" is already gaining momentum with so far, five artists making submissions. The idea is to help promote local artists by displaying their artwork in a public building. What better way to utilize the Library's wall space? Some of these paintings are for sale so check with Marta or Anne for information. Recently Mary Dolman has loaned a number of her acrylic paintings for the east wall and Maureen Abbott has submitted a magnificent charcoal drawing of a bear and its cub for the "rotunda" above the clerk's desk. One of Graham Everitt's pieces will be displayed on the south wall. There are other works waiting to be hung as well and space is still available.


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