|The Tombstone Range seen from Tombstone Campground on the Dempster Highway. The mountains in the Tombstone area were called the "ragged mountains" by the various Gwich'in tribes which used the region. See story below. Photo by Dan Davidson|
Welcome to the August 4th on-line edition of the Klondike Sun. This is the abridged version of our 28 page Aug 1st hard copy edition. Wish we could share everything, but getting a subscription (see our home page) is the only way you'll ever see it all.
by Tara McCauley
For the past 22 years the Dawson City Music Festival has treated festival goers to a diverse mix of music from across the country. The tradition continued the weekend of July 21st-23rd with over 20 acts from almost every province and territory. With a number of different venues including: St. Mary's, St. Paul's, the Palace Grand, the Odd Fellow's Hall and Mainstage, it was impossible to be everywhere at once. This would-be roving reporter, however, fought the temptations that could have lured her away from Mainstage. She stayed put.
It has been said, somewhat critically, that the Minto Park area (which includes Mainstage and the beer gardens) is more oriented towards the consumption of alcohol than the actual music. Yet, reputed as one of the best parties in the Yukon, people seem to have found a happy medium. And what party doesn't include a little of both?
So while this is a music festival and not a beer festival, I'll try to concentrate more on the music, yet I cannot dismiss the important role that the beer garden plays. As well as a designated drinking location, it is also an important gathering spot and meeting point. Lose a friend during your travels? You will find them here. Feeling lonely? You are guaranteed to run into long-lost friends and meet new ones. Don't have tickets? You can still have a good listen to the tunes. Relax on the grass, join a hack circle or take a trip to the impeccably spotless porta-potties. It is basically an oasis of fuzzy happy beer soaked nostalgia. That is until the downpour starts and you really get soaked.
Now into the tent, which seems to have morphed this year allowing for a much larger interior and dance floor. As most of you very well know, that floor was put to very good use. When it wasn't used for stomping, jigging, jumping around and dancing, it hosted intermission entertainment like breakdance competitions, juggling acts and tons of fun stuff.
The whole Mainstage line-up was pretty groovin'. All three nights. And the cool thing was if you discovered a band that you really dug, chances were you could catch them once more before the weekend was out or at least buy the CD.
All the bands were great and the diversity of musical genres was hard to match, but these were my faves:
The first band I became acquainted with over the weekend was Painting Daisies. Based in Edmonton, they played a cool combo of funk, folk and alternative rock. Says fest-goer, Karen McWilliam, "Painting Daisies is a rockin' group of chicks that had the crowd exercising their demons through dance and energizing empowerment."
KILT was awesome. This pop/folk group from Nova Scotia was totally jumpin'. Complete with fiddle (what east coast band would be complete without one?), they played traditional east coast tunes, original compositions and covered 80s classics like "Billie Jean " and "I can't Get Enough of You, Baby" but with a Celtic twist! They played to enthusiastic crowds Friday and Sunday nights.
The Paulo Ramos Group, from Montreal, was one of the treats of the festival. This Brazilian group was fantastic. If the crowd didn't have Brazilian roots before the festival they sure discovered them Friday and Sunday night!
I'm surprised we haven't already heard more about The Pocket Dwellers. They played an urban mix of acid-jazz, funk and hip-hop. They played all nights of the festival. Friday at the Youth Dance and Saturday and Sunday at Mainstage. With eight members and a host of instruments, plus an MC and a DJ, they have a an amazing presence. These cats are cool.
The music at Fest has always been of a superior quality but music aside for a moment, there were some great improvements made this year. I have heard several people comment on them. They should be mentioned.
First of all, the between show amusement was great. After one band would finish and as the next was setting up, there were all sorts of activities going on that gave the crowd a break yet didn't leave them with nothing to do. Master of Ceremonies, Ali Eisner, had a lot to do with that. She kept the laughs going and orchestrated activities like the breakdance competition. Mike Battie, who was "causing a stir" at the family events over the weekend was also on hand in the evening to juggle for and with the crowd. They loved him. (Well, except for the guy who was getting the celery knocked from his mouth by Mike's flying machete!)
Several people also commented on how much stuff there was at the craft booths this year. "There's so much, I don't know what to buy!" exclaimed one frantic shopper.
The portal to the beer booth from inside the tent on Sunday night was also very well received. Although many people didn't realize it existed until it was too late.
So many people put in countless hours of volunteer work to put this festival together and make it happen. In the President and Producer's Message inside the festival program, they both talked about the spirit of the festival, which pervades Dawson every year and is really what brings the festival to life.
That spirit lives on. Despite the rain and cold, there were only happy faces to be found. People walked down the street humming to themselves. Different places you'd find people playing guitars, on the dyke, at the hot-dog stand.
The finale of the Sunday night Mainstage concert was the Ramones punk classic, "I Wanna be Sedated". And in a sense we were, with that happy drug that is the Dawson City Music Festival.
by Dan Davidson
Down at Saint Mary's, on Sunday night, most of the performers can't resist taking some kind of a good natured swipe at Father Tim Coonen. At the same time, however, they also can't resist looking over their shoulders, to where an iconic Christ hangs on a cross. The mix of nervousness and bravado adds a bit of a edge to performances which can, at times, indulge in some pretty earthy language.
Not that Kim Barlow uses a lot of nasty words, but songs about relationships often make some people assume that they shouldn't be sung in churches. Barlow, accompanied and enhanced by Daniel Janke and Andrea McColeman, keeps the audience in a very friendly space with a lots of changes of pace for her set.
Kendall Anne Sullivan and Joe Bishop are the darlings of the evening, and perform as if they are still getting used to all the attention. Their's is a repertoire filled with sweet songs on the one hand and, on the other, a sense that someone's been listening to Weird Al recordings.
Carolyn Mark arrives on stage without Her Room Mates, Tolan and Garth. Is it an actual error in scheduling or part of the act? Who can tell? It does allow her to deliver a biting little number about how people who don't keep their commitments should burn for eternity somewhere down below. The guys arrive in time for their solos in the middle of the second song and all is some forgiven as they charge ahead into a high voltage set which is part spoof and part serious.
The music is like Carolyn's outfit: a dress which doesn't quite fit, a black slip peeking at the bodice and below the hemline, sneakers and ankle socks, and hair which seems to have escaped from whatever style it was intended to have been. The total effect is quite delightful.
With Fred Eaglesmith there is no question about what's going on. This is music with a sense of humour - loud, energetic, full of pain and irony and delivered impeccably. It works so well that having Washboard Hank, this guy who does percussion with a license plate, a series of serrated surfaces and collection of bells attached to what must be one of the heaviest instruments ever, in the band seems perfectly normal.
Something could be said about Freddie's other sidemen - solid bass, strong lead and pedal steel - but he doesn't get around to introducing them during his set, which rambles from rockabilly to stuff that sounds almost like Springstein.
At times it's a little hard to tell if we're listening to a musician or a stand-up comic. The introductions to the various pieces in the set are among the longest and strangest heard during this weekend, and sometimes it's hard to tell if Freddie would rather sing or string. It's all part of being a storyteller, one supposes.
And if some of this stuff is a little rough, well, we're all in the right place for a spot of redemption.
(Hansard, July 12, 2000)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all members of the Legislature to offer a special birthday tribute to one of the Yukon's, and indeed one of Canada's, most famous sons, Pierre Berton. Today Mr. Berton is celebrating his 80th birthday.
As I am sure all Yukoners are aware, Pierre Berton was born in Dawson City in 1920 in the shadow of the Klondike Gold Rush. It is his first 12 years, which he spent in Dawson, that profoundly shaped his life.
After leaving the Yukon, Pierre Berton embarked on a career as a writer, first as a newspaper editor, then as an author. He is a prolific writer, an author of more than 40 books, most of them about Canadian history. Many Canadians used to think the history of this country was boring, but, through his writing Pierre Berton has made it exciting and something for us all to be proud of.
His most famous book is called Klondike: a History of the Klondike Gold Rush, which won the Governor General's award for non-fiction in 1958. It's one of three such awards he has won for his books. Through this masterpiece, Pierre Berton has almost single-handedly made the word "Klondike" one that is recognized all over the world.
Although he now lives in Ontario, he has not forgotten his roots. In 1995, he purchased the house in Dawson City where he spent his childhood, and donated it to the Yukon Arts Council for their writer-in-residence program. He was chancellor of Yukon College from July 1988 to November 1993. In 1986, he was awarded the Order of Canada.
This weekend, family, friends and colleagues will gather at the Berton home in Kleinburg, Ontario to celebrate Pierre's 80th birthday. On behalf of all Yukoners, I wish him a very happy birthday and good health for many years to come.
Fires were wreaking havoc in Dawson City over a two day period in late July.
At 12:08 a.m. on Friday, July 21, the Dawson fire department was called to a blaze at a mining claim eight kilometres outside of town.
Two motor homes, a shed and a car burned up in the flames, according to the town's fire chief, Chris Mayes.
Mayes said the motor homes were parked on the claim, with one shed in between them. The car was nearby.
One motor home was destroyed by the fire, the other was gutted. He said the car was damaged and the shed was also destroyed.
The fire department is not sure why the blaze began. "We're following some leads but I don't suspect arson."
Mayes says it appears the larger motor home was being stored for people who were going to come up for it.
It's not clear if there was someone living in the other motor home.
Mayes was not sure of the cost of the damage.
The other fire involved one of the oldest standing buildings in Dawson City, the Guns and Ammo building.
The call for that fire came at 3:20 Thursday morning.
Mayes said the fire was just on one part of the wall. "It caught one wall," he said.
But the building withstood the fire.
"It's still standing. Even the wall that burnt is still standing."
He said the RCMP are investigating the fire, as arson may be a possibility.
A Whitehorse Star Archive story originally published July 21, 2000
by Dan Davidson
On the Saturday morning of the Dawson City Music Festival Don Cox is busy at his labour of love, peeling undressed lumber away from the bottom section of the Guns and Ammo Building. The section between the walls is not mix of old newspapers and sawdust so common to buildings of that era.
The wrapping material is overlapping swathes of tar paper that seem to have been leftovers from several other jobs. Near the bottom the builders ran out, and that corner of the building is wrapped in an old canvas advertising banner which is the object of Cox's attention this morning.
He's already had several calls from interested history buffs who are curious about what it says, so he's decided to expose the letters. At this point we can see that there's someone's name on the top line, followed by a comma, and what we can see of the bottom line would seem to be the word "watchmaker".
The rest of the banner unfortunately fell victim to whoever it was that decided to try to burn the building down in the wee hours of Friday morning the week before.
To Cox that arson attempt makes no sense at all, but he points to the completely charred hole down at the base of the building. He can't understand how anyone thought they would get away with the attempt right across the road from the Kinsey Manor apartment building.
Peter Dunbar, the local manager of Northern Metallic, Cox's store chain, told him that the flames from the fire were well above the roof line when the fire department arrived. But they were there inside of ten minutes and did such a complete job that even the blackened timbers are still standing.
For Cox the unanswerable question is why someone would wait until he was on the eve of beginning his restoration work - straightening Strait's, so to speak - to have a go at destroying it. From his memory of arriving in Dawson for the first time in the early 1950s, the building has been abandoned, unused, slowly deteriorating and surviving for almost 50 years. To Don Cox, burning it now makes no sense.
"Hopefully, there's nobody that really wants to do it, and it was just a dare or an impulse or something. Because if they really want to do it, that'll be the end of it.
"I can't insure it, except for liability. I'd like to see the insurance company taking a look at this," he says, gesturing at the gutted frame and holding back a laugh. "'Hah! This man wants insurance!'"
Some situations just demand a sense of humour.
Cox says that one of his objectives with this job, aside from having fun with it, is to prove that old buildings can be salvaged in some useful way without bankrupting their owners. He hopes his work on the Guns and Ammo Building will inspire other people to make their own efforts.
by Dan Davidson
Fun, frolic, good times, dancing and crazy humour are always a part of the Gaslight Follies show at the Palace Grand. That hasn't changed this season, but there are some changes that need to be mentioned.
To begin with, it must be said that the Gaslight Follies has changed this year, and the biggest change, for those who have been there before, it that the show is shorter. In previous years the Follies has presented a two hour, two act show, with a 15 minute intermission after the first act. The actual show was a bit less than two hours if it ran straight through, but the intermission lag and the unpredictable length of the audience participation numbers made it hard to be definite, even when you were watching the clock so as to herd the audience to the 10:30 show at Diamond Tooth Gerties.
The second obvious change is the lack of a melodrama plot line to carry through the show. The Follies has always had some sort of story, with villains to hiss and damsels to coo, interspersed with vaudeville type entertainment to pad the proceedings. Not this year.
This year the Follies come across as a series of vignettes, linked by a series of continuing characters rather than a continuing story. The show is loosely based on the interactions of a number of real characters in Dawson's history, though most of them probably never interacted in quite this manner.
The show is still introduced by Arizona Charlie Meadows, portrayed this season by a thoroughly disguised Kevin Ledding, who is here for his second year. Kevin spends most of the show as "Little Frozen Jaw", master of the dumb struck double take.
Andrew Newton makes his Follies debt as Robert Service (in his more formative years) and as "Count Carbonneau", a Montreal barber who faked his title to win the heart of Belinda Mulroney, played by Lesley O'Connor.
Katharine Murphy and Amanda Rushton spend much of the show as "Sassy" and "Ping Pong", a pair of "entertainers" who demonstrate how much work the can-can really can be. They also double as Nettie Hoven, the sole member of the Women's Klondyke Expedition to make it to Dawson, and Gussy Lamore, the egg-loving dancer who stole the heart of Swiftwater Bill Gates.
All of this is tied together by The Rag Time Kid, piano and banjo player Greg Sumner, not to mention the tapping toes of Montana Pete, the archetypal gambler, played by the show's director and writer Joey Hollingsworth.
Old reliable items still make it to the stage, albeit in somewhat changed apparel. The two audience participation numbers of earlier years are combined into one longer item featuring three hapless visitors, a dance, and a wedding dress.
Montana Pete and Frozen Jaw literally lose their shirts (and everything else) in a poker game with Belinda.
There are some high kicking dance routines and (of course) a fair share of tap dancing. There's a bit of romance and bit of horse play. There are songs, jokes and lots of laughs.
Lacking a story line, the show does not build to the same emotional intensity as those of other years, but the audiences seem to be having a good time.
One of the reasons the Follies are shorter this year is so that they can run two shows, back to back, from Friday night to Monday night. These shows start at 7 and 9 p.m. From Tuesday to Thursday there is just one show at 8:30. This arrangement will continue until August 27, after which the schedule will revert to one show per night at 8:30.
by Tara McCauley
Well into the summer season, Diamond Tooth Gertie's continues to be a happening joint. On top of gambling, this sordid den of sin, presents three shows nightly featuring the Queen of Trouble herself, Ms. Diamond Tooth Gertie.
At 8:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m. and midnight every night of the week, Gertie and her ensemble present a showcase of music, dance and comedy.
The two earlier shows are very high energy and although different, are organized around a Goldrush theme. Accompanied by Peter Rothhauser on the piano (Caitlin Hayes is the swing pianist) and Ian Sherwood on the banjo and saxophone, Diamond Tooth Gertie, played by Lorraine Butler, opens the show. Her powerful voice and dazzling personality bring the hall to life. Gertie certainly knows how to work the crowd and takes time to mingle with the audience, who are made up of mostly an older American crowd.
She sings, "If you need a woman, who ya gonna call. If you want a lady that has it all.... I'm Diamond Tooth Gertie, I'm feeling kinda flirty." Need more be said?
The acts alternate between Gertie and her Goldrush Girls, who perform a number of routines, including the traditional French can-can, tap dancing and more. The dances are choreographed by Terrie Turai, who is also the swing dancer. The Goldrush girls are: Tracy Horbachuk, Helen Watts, Colleen Booth, and Leah Jackson. Complete with high kicks and shrieks, they certainly whoop it up. The beautiful costumes, which change frequently, are in a variety of colours and styles with lots of sequins and ruffles.
There are also three male guest musicians: Andrew Newton, Greg Sumner, and Kevin Ledding.
The crowd loves Gertie and her girls and frequently clap along to the music. They present several old tunes that everybody knows and the audience is encouraged to sing along. Audience participation is a big part of the show which allows for a lot of improvised humour. With dancing and singing competitions, participants vie for the "coveted Order of the Garter".
The jokes, which are mostly based on sex, alcohol, and gambling, and flow constantly are standards but work every time.
The last show of the evening is a little more risqué than the other two. By this point the girls have let their hair down a bit and there is more of a nightclub feel. The music is a bit slower and jazzier with tunes like, "Fever" and the Pink Panther theme song. Gertie still works the crowd but in a more subdued fashion. It's quite a change and a naughty alternative to the previous shows.
Each show lasts a little over a half hour and they are definitely worth checking out. Admission is $6.00 for the evening or $20.00 for a season's pass. Diamond Tooth Gertie's is opened from 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. until September 16th.
by Dan Davidson
"Eruption" is the title of the latest show to arrive at the Dawson City Arts Society's ODD Gallery, housed on the first floor of the refurbished Oddfellows Hall.
Whitehorse sculptor Béla Simó has prepared nineteen works using a variety of styles and raw materials. While most of the figures are of wood (African, bass wood, poplar and cedar) there are also several pieces in Alaskan marble, soapstone and Alabaster.
In his artist's statement, Simó says that he aims, "to create life and movement that speaks of the human journey. Each two and three-dimensional form explores a range of experience and emotion: evolution, birth, joy and pain."
When working in wood Simó uses laminated blocks to reproduce the shapes he has already worked out in clay. The lamination prevents the cracking an splitting which is so common to woodwork in the Yukon.
"This way the wood is evenly dried, After I finish the carving I seal the wood so it is totally stabilized."
The actual carving of the wood may begin with a chain saw, but eventually Simó finds he must turn to hand chisels. He says he has tried more mechanized devices, but he finds there is no substitute when it comes to wood.
He roughs out the form, working his way around the material again and again until the final shape of the project is revealed. Even if he knows what a particular section of the finished sculpture will look like, he waits for it to come into perspective with everything else.
He says it is a bit like the slow development of an image on a Polaroid photograph, where everything comes into focus all at once.
He is reluctant to say just how long it takes him to complete a piece of work. His immediate response is "41 years", an artist's answer which takes into account the time taken to master the skills, but he then allows that once he moves into the psychological zone of creation on any particular piece it seems like time does not exist, and it actually is hard to evaluate in that way.
Thus, this article will have taken about an hour to write, but does that include the time spent looking at the displays, the time spent interviewing the creator of the work, or the two decades which have gone into the development of the skills needed to write it?
Lately, Simó has been working with a stock of Alaskan marble, with which he creating pieces for a show he hopes to mount next March in California. He says the material is quite delightful to work with. He is able to use pneumatic tools to work the material a bit faster.
"Believe me or not, if Michelangelo would have had these tools, he would have used the same. Is possible to do it by hand, but is a longer process."
Simó's wooden sculptures are somewhat abstract is form, even when they are clearly representational. Some of the later carvings blend realistic representations of the human form with a drapery of abstract clothing. In the marble pieces, he is at his most anatomically realistic.
Eruption opened on July and will continue until August 14.
by Dan Davidson
When Reader's Digest decided that it wanted to profile three of Canada's mayors, from three widely different communities, its editors went to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and asked for suggestions. The folks at FCM came back with a number of them, with a strong recommendation that one of the profiles should be of Dawson City's mayor, Glen Everitt.
So that is how Everitt came to be the middle item in a trio which includes Calgary's Al Duerr and Sudbury's Jim Gordon, in an article by Claudia Cornwall called "There Mayors Mean Business". The item begins on page 88 of the August 2000 edition of "Canada's Most Widely Read Magazine."
Many people were interviewed for the Everitt profile, including the author of this article, and Larry Bagnell, the executive director of the Association of Yukon Communities, of which Everitt is in his second term as president.
"I know I spent over an hour on the phone with (the writer)," Bagnell said. "A Yukoner getting in a national magazine like that is great."
The FCM connection comes because of Everitt's AYC position, which puts him on the board of directors of the federal body.
"Glen has made his mark at FCM," Bagnell said. One of the ways he did this was in his tax challenge to the federal government early in his first term. Dawson's council felt the feds should pay late charges on their utilities like everyone else, and when they refused he got the back hoe out to dig up their sewer and water connection if they did not pay within 10 days.
Bagnell says this was a national precedent at the time it happened, and other communities took notice.
The article also lists the accomplishments of Everitt and his council in establishing a tendering policy, reducing the budgets of city departments by 15%, helping to build a new landfill and encouraging a recycling partnership with Conservation Klondike.
Cornwall also notes the 25% residential reduction and 10% business reduction in annual utility bills during the 1999 budget year (the article was written before the 2000 budget, which went on to reduce property taxes).
Council is cited for its anti-loitering bylaw, which, according to the RCMP, cut down on vandalism in the town, its business license partnership which helps to fund the Chamber of Commerce, and the establishment of a fibre-optic network for data and video transmission, which the Yukon Territorial Government recently cited in a development proposal as being "state of the art."
Cornwall also writes of Everitt's personal involvement with encouraging tourism in the Yukon and the Klondike. At the request of the Klondike Visitors Association he helps to man the Dawson booth at trade shows in Alaska, decked on in a tuxedo and the mayors gold studded chain of office.
Everitt's FCM connections, Cornwall notes, have also made it possible for the Yukon to bid successfully to hold the organization's 2001 annual general meeting, which will be in Dawson in December of that year.
Complied by Dan Davidson
Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins has finally made the jump to leader of his party. The only surviving elected member of the Yukon Party achieved his ambition on Friday after he was the only candidate to file nomination papers.
Yukon News reporter Paul Michna wrote that Jenkins faxed his papers to the Yukon Party's returning officer at 5 p.m., Thursday in plenty of time to beat the 8 a.m. Friday deadline for filing.
"I know I have, now, a clear mandate to provide leadership to the party," Jenkins said Friday morning in a telephone interview with the Whitehorse Star's Jason Small..
He is now the sixth person to lead the party since it was originally formed as the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party in 1978. The list of leaders has included Hilda Watson, Chris Pearson, Willard Phelps, and Chris Young.
In 1991, the YPCP was rechristened the Yukon Party, and led by John Ostashek. Jenkins is the second leader under that party name.
The Klondike MLA first showed public interest in the job last fall, when Ostashek called for a leadership vote, but he backed away from the contest, indicating that he was not prepared to put his businesses into a blind trust to be Opposition leader. As third party leader that is not a requirement.
"I've always had aspirations for leadership, but timing is all-important, and all the issues have to line up and be favorable," Jenkins told the News.
Surviving the Yukon party's near elimination was no easy feat, even for Jenkins, who saw his margin of victory in the Klondike reduced from 230 to 27 after a strong challenge from a former supporter Stuart Schmidt, who ran for the victorious Liberals, led by the woman (Pat Duncan) who had been Jenkins' campaign worker the first time he tried for the seat in 1989.
Speaking to the Star, Jenkins said he faced a lot of hard work to rebuild the decimated party.
He told the News that he would have to "surround myself with people whose abilities far exceed my own to run in the next election, and to capture the next majority of seats."
The News' story concludes with this exchange between reporter Michna and Jenkins:
"What about his occasional lapses in judgment and language gaffes in the house?
"Jenkins doesn't plan to change a thing.
"'I haven't given it any consideration,' he said dryly."
Both stories note that Jenkins has been, by far, the single strongest opposition critic of the government during the latest session of the legislature in Whitehorse.
by Dan Davidson
Dawson's newest, most eagerly awaited inn is also one of its oldest buildings, an aging home and one-time brothel known to all as Bombay Peggy's. Two years ago the building was in a swampy gully on Front Street, crumbling and in danger of falling apart. Today, drastically expanded in size, it sits primly at the corner of 2nd and Princess, its appearance a distinct contrast to its name and history.
It is now Bombay Peggy's Victorian Inn and Lounge, but three years ago it was just a vision in the minds of owners Wendy Cairns and Kim Bouzane, who were then employed at the Dawson City Women's Shelter and beginning to dream of something more independent.
Cairns had been in Dawson on and off since she came for a summer with the Gertie's dancers in 1986, and moved here year round in 1991. Bouzane arrived in 1992 and has been here ever since. Both own homes.
The pair were taken with the building and the idea of a business and they knew even then that they were not alone. Peggy's was a building that nearly everyone in town with an speck of creativity and business sense had dreamed about at one time or other; all the stories that came to them while they were doing the restoration work confirmed that.
Making the dream real took a lot of effort, though.
"It was," says Wendy, "bigger and more work than we expected."
"What I originally proposed at the kitchen table and what we have here are two different things," says Kim, looking around the ornamental front parlour just off the entrance, where guests are invited to remove their shoes and pick up a pair of slippers from the basket at the door before heading up to their rooms on the second and third floors..
That summer they developed their first plan, which they now admit was pretty wild, but it foundered on the owner's insistence that the swamp land and building were a $220,000 package.
"Also," says Wendy, "the location just wasn't the best. At that end of town most people are leaving, not arriving."
The situation changed the next year, when the owner decided he would be willing to sell the building by itself. They jumped at it.
"The next thing we know we own this building," says Kim. "Now what?"
"We were quite euphoric when we actually bought the building in July of '98," Wendy recalls.
Finding a parcel of land was another struggle. They felt Peggy's would look best on a corner, but there didn't seem to be any available, especially not in the downtown core. Of the four levels of government with land, it was finally the City of Dawson that came through after some deals with a third party.
In October of '98, Bombay Peggy's tottered up Front Street in one of Dawson's famous relocations, with its owners praying hard that it would hold together until it reached its new pad. From that time until opening day in December, 1999, fourteen months passed and the original idea continued to mutate, growing by five rooms and a bar to reach its present size.
It seemed like a very long period of tedious progress, no money coming in and debts (they won't say how much) piling up, but when they look back now, it seems short.
"When we have visitors come, and they ask, and we tell them how long it took, they think that's pretty good," Wendy says. "They're impressed by how little time it took."
Rebuilding and expanding Peggy's was a mammoth task, complicated by the attempt to salvage as much as possible of the original building while making it into a viable business. The owners agree it would probably have been cheaper to build something from scratch, but are adamant that the result would not have had the same flavour.
The original plan was to be a bed and breakfast establishment, but they soon discovered that they really needed to add a bar for income, and to do that they had to have 10 rooms, which meant doubling the original number.
It also meant a lot of changes. They joke about having been back and forth to the City of Dawson's planning board so many times that they were eventually asked if one of them would like to join it.
"When we got the building," says Wendy, "it was completely gutted ... hardly a straight line or square corner anywhere."
The sawdust insulation had to be removed. Kim jokes that a lot of it fell out during the relocation. Plans for modern plumbing, wiring and air exchange systems had to be developed. Designs had to be altered to make some smaller rooms big enough to avoid being claustrophobic.
The resulting rooms are still unique, and have names to match: the Gold Room, the Lipstick Room, the Green Room, the Lookout, the Attic, the Snug, the Brig, Room 10 (still looking for a name), the Sweet and the Purple Room. Each has a different colour scheme and layout, unified by a vaguely old-fashioned motif, except for the Attic, which is sort of modernistic.
It soon became clear that they weren't going to make their mid-summer 1999 goal. It got to be a bit of a joke. Peggy's had been advertised as a B&B, and people kept phoning up to book rooms. Kim remembers taking calls with construction noise going on all around her and trying to explain to people that, no, they couldn't book a room right away - maybe in a few months...
"We were getting reservation requests for the music festival before we had the roof on," says Wendy.
As things stood they opened in December.
Says Wendy, "It was a blessing in disguise that we opened up in deepest, darkest winter." It gave them a chance to break in their routines slowly, and "it gave locals a chance to scope it out before anybody else and kind of claim it, especially the bar."
"When we finally opened I remember looking at myself and going, 'I have to change my clothes now.' I'd been in work clothes for more than a year and I had to dig through my closets and totes to find something to wear (for the opening). Hadn't even changed my earrings all year."
The crowning touch under the heading of "stupid things that go wrong" was when all their bar furnishings were shipped to some place in Dawson Creek and could not be re-routed in time for the official opening. They rented tables from the Klondike Visitors Association and borrowed the new stools the Dawson City Arts Society had just purchased for their arts classrooms.
Some of the work continued after the place opened. Wendy can recall tending bar and running back into the parlour to paint some trim in between customers.
"I became a really neat painter. I'd run here, paint some trim, and then go back - just spotless."
Wendy and Kim don't know a lot about the history of their building or the lady whose name it bears. She was a madame at one time and the place was a brothel. They'd love to know more.
One artifact did turn up during the reconstruction. They like to think it's authentic, but it was in among the sawdust insulation, and it's anyone's guess how it got there.
"We found a shredded pair of pink, silk bloomers in one of the walls," says Wendy.
"We're thinking they're bonafide Bombay Peggy bloomers," Kim says. They're having them mounted for display. Something tasteful ... of course!
by Dan Davidson
Several of Dawson's major municipal projects will be drawing to a close with the summer next month leaving the Bonanza Recreation Centre upgrade as the remaining item from this council's capital works agenda.
The first project to wrap up should be the new swimming pool, at a final budget of $2.2 million, of which $313,742.77 as of the July 24 council meeting.
"The pool is still under budget," Mayor Everitt told council and the media.
The Pool is 4 to 5 days behind its revised completion schedule while the crew is waiting for some laminated beams.
Everitt is still smarting over original pledge to dive into the pool on Canada Day, even though he retracted it the day after he made it last spring. He will says that a grand opening is being planned for an as yet unspecified date in September. He and recreation director Jason Barber have been discussing a concert in the park, with a barbecue, fireworks and a community celebration.
"The neat thing is you'll actually get to watch fireworks in Dawson without having to sit in your vehicle at 30 below."
Just around the corner of Crocus Bluff from the downtown core, the new Soccer Field is nearing completion, and would be nearing it a lost faster if there had not been so much rain this summer. The field was budgeted at $95,000, or which only $11,503 had been spent, but it's been mostly site preparation so far. A fence contract has been awarded and the grass seeding will take place by mid-August if all goes well.
The project is within budget, said Everitt and the recreation department is still planning to have a grand opening in mid-September, marked by a soccer game between a Mayor's team and some other team. Everitt says he'd like to play a team made up of representatives from the political parties which okayed the grant applications which have created this field as well as the ball park next to it which was finished last summer.
City staff and the fire department volunteers are scheduled to enter their expanded quarters on Front Street in August, probably more towards the end of the month. Council expects that taxpayers will forgive the budget on this building, which not quite doubled in the process, when they see the improved fire department space, try out the much friendlier stairs to the second floor and sample the elevator.
That will leave the Bonanza Center, the budget for which is still not final. Tenders have been issued, but contracts have not yet been let.
Everitt says this project is still on schedule. He has already heard rumours around the town that there will be not skating this year. Similar stories circulated last year and turned out to be exaggerated fears.
"That's hogwash," he said. "It's that same 'let's create a controversy by starting a rumour' syndrome in Dawson."
Everitt says the scheduled pouring of the cement floor for the rink should allow plenty of time for ice to be made - much thinner ice now that the rink will be cement - in time for the regular hockey and skating season in the beginning of December.
What will be missing is the old change rooms for the arena, which have been torn out and will be replaced by two Atco trailers for this season, until the new ones are complete.
As the arena portion of the project gets closer to the end, council - perhaps a different council, as elections will come in October - will be able to evaluate whether it can proceed with the gymnasium / multi-purpose space which would be the final part of the facility improvements.
by Dan Davidson
The creation of the Tombstone park has not been without it pitfalls and struggles, and it continues to be controversial even now. Be that as it may, the Tombstone Steering Committee, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in first nation and the Yukon Territorial Government picked July 15 as the day to honour the proclamation of the park's creation, with events in both Dawson and at the Tombstone Campground to mark the occasion.
The morning celebrations got under way at the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Cultural Centre with a 1993 slide show which had been produced then to argue the case for the park. While it was a trifle political in content, steering committee member Tim Gerberding asked people to disregard the rhetoric and enjoy the pictures.
The Han singers and dancers presented four short songs before the guests got down to the speeches.
Minister of Renewable Resources Dale Eftoda, congratulated "the negotiators on all sides, who worked hard to come up with a process that would meet the diverse interests of all Yukon people."
He thanked all those supporters of the park concept who had made their knowledge available to the planners and locals who helped identify the importance of the key sites in the park. In particular he mentioned Percy Henry, Jack Fraser, Ed Kormendy, Freda Roberts, Barb Hanulik, Anne Reynolds, Peter and Sharon Jensen and Georgette McLeod.
"This," said Eftoda, "is a major milestone in the territory's history, which will protect one of the most majestic areas in all of North America. For generations to come Yukon people and visitor alike will continue to draw strength and inspiration from this very special place."
To mark the ceremony, Eftoda presented the cultural centre with a large scale map of the culturally significant sites within the park's boundaries.
Interestingly enough, the weekend was significant in other ways, since July 16 marked the second anniversary of the signing of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in's final Land Claim agreement, which was the event which mandated the development of the Tombstone Park.
Chief Darren Taylor spoke of the diverse wildlife within the park and called the day a significant one. "It's an area that deserves protection. Without the help of our elders ... we would probably never have recognized the real significance of this area. We were trying to protect what our elders knew was culturally and historically Tr'ondek Hwech'in."
Elder Percy Henry was the chief of the Dawson Indian Band (as it was know then) when Land Claims and the work that led to the park's creation began.
"I've been around for 30 years with this kind of work," he told the audience. "I was elected chief in 1969." He recalled starting the process of questioning those who were the elders in his day to find out what it was important to preserve, talking to elders who had seen the first white people come into the country.
"Chief Isaac, he told his people, 'It's not our culture, so just help them.'"
Henry spoke of the wandering life of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in, how they travelled seasonally and over the years, always coming back to certain places for gatherings and the breaking up again because the land would not support large numbers in any one place.
When times were toughest, he said, they could always count on the Tombstone / Blackstone region to feed them. It was, he said, their welfare system, "because the caribou is there, the animals, the fish."
Later in the afternoon, and 120 kilometres to the northeast, about 30 people from the first nation and their guests gathered at the Tombstone Campground, for what Georgette McLeod reports as a relaxing afternoon.
Freda Roberts made bannock and had organized food for the group. Georgette spoke of the cultural heritage of the park and the Tr'ondek Hwech'in's hopes for the future. Elder Percy Henry recalled his youth in the area he calls "his university."
July 15 was also the actual 79th anniversary of Joe and Annie Henry's marriage, which was celebrated earlier in the spring during the Governor General's visit to Dawson. It so happened that Annie won one of the draw prizes on Saturday at Tombstone Campground, which made her the person in line to pick the next one, and she in turn picked out Joe's name.
"They're always together," McLeod chuckled.
To mark the day and the event, YTG and Tr'ondek Hwech'in officials exchanged commemorative photographs of the park area.
by Dan Davidson
A committee has been struck to examine the continuing issue of building a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson. The committee is made up of Mayor Everitt, Chief Darren Taylor, Bill Bowie, Bill Hakonson, and hotelier Dick Van Nostrand.
The first meeting will be held near the end of July.
Said Everitt, "It's time for the government of Yukon to remove the politics from the bridge. It's clear that the only reason the bridge isn't there is politics. It's got nothing to do with funding.
"It makes more sense to spend $25 million to construct a bridge that's good for 75 to 100 years than it does to operate a ferry at the tune of a million and something dollars a year for the next 100 years - plus replacing it every twenty. You're looking at $160 million versus $25 million."
Everitt says one of the main stumbling blocks to making the political decision has been the idea that this would be Dawson's Bridge. He says that it is no more true than the notion that other bridges along the Klondike Highway belong to Carmacks, Pelly Crossing or Stewart Crossing.
In his opinion a bridge across the Yukon River at Dawson would be nothing more or less than an extremely valuable addition to the territory's transportation system.
Everitt noted that just a few years ago the town was fined for creating a couple of berms into the river for the purpose of fixing a blocked sewage pipe. This year you can't even see those berms, but you sure can see the landing pads for the George Black Ferry.
The highways department, Everitt said, routinely pushes tons of dirt in at either side of the ferry route every year and never gets in trouble. He'd like to see an environmental impact study done on the ferry itself, especially since the bridge proposal as it exists on paper and in computer models passed a fisheries review.
The focus of the committee will be to propose ways for a bridge to become a reality and make that presentation to the territorial government.
by Tara McCauley
One of the many workshops hosted by the Dawson City Art's Society was the Mime & Physical Theatre workshop, that took place this past week. For five days, Monti Bourassa worked with a group of 4 girls aged 11-13: Amy Ball, Monica Nordling, Monica Fras, & Jenny Matchett.
The aim of the workshop was to learn basic mime technique. To accomplish this, the girls learned proper warm ups, and did strength building exercises so that they'd be prepared for the physical components that miming entails. Then it was on to the actual routines, which they picked apart and analyzed so they could be successfully executed. One aspect the girls really enjoyed was the make-up.
Their instructor, Monti Bourassa, has been living in Whitehorse for the past three years. Her love of mime developed from her fascination with the circus. "The strength, agility and energy [of circus performers] is admirable." Originally from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Bourassa was involved with various theatrical and improvisation companies throughout Alberta. In 1996, she attended the Desmond Jones Mime School in London, England for five months.
In Whitehorse Bourassa has been busy at work. She has conducted mime workshops for the youth conference and participated in Brave New Works (a showcase, that takes place every four months for young performers). This year she produced the International Story Telling Festival, which she called, "an amazing experience." She was also the site co-ordinator for Street Fest, but not before heading to Ottawa as the Yukon Street Theatre representative for Canada Day. There she played an inquisitive northern nymph.
Bourassa is delighted to be in Dawson conducting her first week long workshop. "The girls are really into what they do. They come up with a lot of it."
Last Friday at the end of the week-long mime marathon, the girls presented, "Mime-I-Nation & Clowning Around", a cumulative performance of the week's work. The audience of approximately 25 people, mostly family and friends, enjoyed the show, which was remarkably polished considering the short time frame the group was working in.
by Dan Davidson
After nearly 16 years spent writing plays, Sally Clark was looking for a change - so she came to Dawson City to write a novel.
Well, not quite.
"I saw an ad in the Playwright's Union newsletter. I'd just been to Banff, at the Layton Colony ... and I had really enjoyed the idea of going away on a retreat, so when I saw this thing saying 'writers' retreat - Berton House' I went, 'That's it!'"
She wasn't quite sure how it would work or how much of a retreat it would be. At one time she was writer in residence at a university which promptly went on strike right after she arrived. To get to her office she had to cross a picket line.
"Sometimes," says Clark, "you have these writer in residence programs where you're invited to go somewhere and they basically pay absolutely no attention to you once you're there. You're ... stranded in this place that you've never been to before, you don't know anybody and you're ignored for your whole tenure.
"Then, maybe a week before you do leave, the host turns up, who's been mysteriously out of town the whole time you've been there."
That does not happen at Berton House. Her experience has been totally the opposite of any worries she might have had.
"It's been so nice. I've been wonderfully take care of. I've really loved it."
The local coordinator is community librarian Kim Adams, and she makes sure that no Berton House writer is ever more lonely than she wants to be. Sally says this is not the norm, in her experience.
Apprised of all the things she could do if she wanted to, Sally Clark has worked as a volunteer at the Yukon Gold Panning Championships, taught a live drawing course at the Klondike Institute of the Arts, attended numerous functions and sung in a choir at a recent funeral.
The drawing course came from her other talent, which is art.
"Ever since I was little I've painted and drawn. I went to art school and to university as well. So I've studied both. I was a painter in Toronto for several years ... actively pursuing galleries for 10 or 12 years.
"It always happened that the galleries I liked, that liked my work, would go out of business, so then I'd find another gallery."
She says she was a little out of sync with her times, in that she was a realistic painter when realism was frowned upon.
"Painting wasn't supposed to have anything to do with telling a story or a narrative - wasn't illustrative."
So perhaps it not too surprising that writing came later. She'd written plays in university and they'd been appreciated there. So at 27 she switched directions and began writing for the theatre.
"I think my plays are comedies," she says, "but a lot of people weren't sure when they first started to produce them."
She agrees that her work has sort of Monty Python quality to it, funny but with an edge, about eccentric people fumbling through everyday life.
"I tend to like to play with messy topics."
One play, called Life Without Instructions, was based on the life of an Italian Renaissance woman painter who was raped by her mentor and eventually married him.
"It was a true story. I love taking true stories and working with the hows and whys. That's your out, when people ask you how you could write such a dreadful thing, you just tell them those were the facts."
Another early play, Moo, contains a combination of events and personalities from her extended family. The central character is one of those women whose life has been ruined by a "rotter" of a man who married and then deserted her. She becomes the "family tragedy" as she pursues him all over the world. At first you feel sorry for her, but every time she catches Harry she totally dominates him physically and emotionally to the extent that you can almost understand why he would resort to sticking her in an insane asylum long enough to be able to run away.
Sally also acts a bit, though she didn't study that formally. She recalls acting in one of her own plays and still having trouble remembering her lines.
"They're words on a page to a writer, but to an actor they leave the page and become something totally different. It has to be part of you. Then you have to make it part of yourself somehow."
The move to fiction comes from the reduced expectations in drama. Clark says she used to be able to make a decent living in the theatre, but the growing emphasis on making money, cutting costs and playing it safe has meant that fewer new plays have been able to get onto stages.
Safe plays can have big budgets and lots of cast members, but new ones have to be about four characters or less and not too experimental.
"I won a prize to go away to Banff for a week, sponsored by the Playhouse in Vancouver. I got this free trip to the Layton Colony. I didn't have anything on my plate, had no intention of writing prose, but thought it might be fun. I just started writing this book and got a ton of work done in one week."
There had been a time when she had considered writing prose, but writing plays had worked out and she never got back to it.
"My prose sort of disintegrated into becoming a play. Also I was scared by the idea of how I was going to make this into a big, long thing. It was always way more than I wanted to write. But now I feel differently about it, quite the opposite. It's fun to write more without being told not to.
"In theatre you're always edited. Always told 'that's enough, they can't say more than that' or 'can you reduce that to one line?' It's nice to be in control."
The novel, she says, is going well, although she expects it will take another year to finish. She writes in longhand, and uses her laptop only to type up the finished results. While she tries to write in the morning, she finds that if she sets up too much of a routine she tends to rebel against it. Dawson, however, is a great place to work, and she's getting a lot done.
by Kim Adams
A lively crowd of 40 savored an evening of saucy satire Wednesday July 19th at the Rio Grill. Burgers, fries and biting banter were the order of the day. Anyone craving a taste of live theatre and fast food would have relished this Berton House reading featuring the work of playwright Sally Clark. Sally was joined by Russell Jones, Peter Maxwell, Bonnie Nordling and yours truly in a series of dramatic readings from two of her plays, "Moo" and "Wasps".
Is it love or obsession when persistent Moo refuses to give up, give in, or let go of Harry even after he puts her in an insane asylum, remarries twice, and hides from her in various exotic places around the world? Redefining the phrase, "Stand by your man", "Moo" is a comedic look at lifelong commitments.
"Wasps": take one newlywed former spinster librarian, add a husband and sister-in-law with split personalities, throw in one self-styled overdue library book collector, add a dashing delinquent borrower with a fetish for librarians and mix thoroughly. Yield: one satirical theatrical look at life, love, and libraries which leaves the audience wanting more.
Berton House readings and the Berton House program are made possible with the continuing support of the Canada Council for the Arts, and the efforts of the Klondike Visitor's Association, the Yukon Art's Council Berton House Committee, Berton House Writers and the Dawson Community Library.
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