Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hardy, historic fun

Yukon winter fests offer huge range of wild, wooly activities

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The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival, says longtime Whitehorse resident Nancy Tanner, is the main reason she moved to the Yukon 18 years ago.

"Sourdough Rendezvous is not just a festival, it's an experience," Tanner says. "It's got dancing, entertainment and hilarious events like the Kobassa Eating contest and the Chainsaw Chuck.

"Especially for people who come to visit Whitehorse, it's a great event for them to gain an understanding of why we live here."

While northern winters are indeed long, all those months of little or no daylight provide locals with plenty of time to dream up inimitable festivals that celebrate the chilly season and those hardy enough to embrace and revel in the unique Yukon culture.

At the Sourdough Rendezvous, that celebration of culture includes such events as the Hairy Leg contest, Glamour Goes North, the Beard and Moustache Growing competition and the Flour Packing contest.

This last event showcases life skills that were essential to survival in the Yukon a century ago, with contestants carrying an average 315 kilograms of flour on their backs.

Although the festival offers great entertainment for the whole family, it also maintains its historic Yukon charm with the inclusion of the Sourdough Sam contest, where participants compete in such tests of fortitude as the Queen of the Creeks ball gown and swimsuit competition -- as Tanner points out, "You gotta realize these men are mostly big and hairy" -- and the Bare 'n Boot, in which contestants "leave their boots on."

Running from Feb. 23 through 26, the 2012 Sourdough Rendezvous (yukonrendezvous.com) also marks the 70th anniversary of the construction of the Alaska Highway, while celebrating the good-natured frontier spirit of the Yukon, where bold self-expression is not just embraced but encouraged, and at appropriate times, plied with plenty of warm libations.

Meanwhile, 530 kilometres further north, Dawson City (dawsoncity.ca) embodies the wild spirit of the prospectors who, in 1896, spawned the biggest gold rush the world has ever witnessed, and the rugged, capable spirit that sustained them.

The home of Canada's oldest casino -- Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Hall -- and the irresistible Sour Toe cocktail heralds the much-anticipated arrival of spring with the aptly named Thaw di Gras. Running March 15 to 18, the annual carnival wakes up the entire neighbourhood with such raucous events as the Chainsaw Toss, Tug of War, One-Dog Pull and a Tea Boiling contest -- and of course, a few rounds of the unique Sour Toe cocktails.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2012 D6

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