Photo by Whitehorse Star
Canadian syndicated sports columnist Jim Coleman once gave a piece of advice to Yukoners about the Sourdough Rendezvous.
"Keep it as it is; small town," he said. "Once you try to go big-time, you'll find you're working your heads off and not having any fun yourselves."
The formula worked.
"Fun" is the keynote of the perennial Whitehorse winter carnival. It's sparked by participation in all the events, not only by Yukoners themselves, but by the visitors from Outside.
Celebrities are welcomed, indeed made much of, if they get into the swing of things. But essentially, the Rendezvous means getting out there and doing something yourself.
Like the time the camera clerk from a local department store went on his lunch hour to have a look at the flour-packing contest.
"I'd like to try that," he thought, and did. What he didn't do was get back to work on time; but four hours later, they crowned Uwe Meyer flour-packing champion after he carried 363 kilograms on his shoulders.
He took the title twice more before retiring.
And the time a Quebecer, driving the Alaska Highway, stopped in Whitehorse to see what all the activity was all about. He borrowed a pair of snowshoes and ended up champion snowshoer of the Yukon.
They don't all end up champions, of course, but they experience things they talk about for years afterward.
There was the advertising executive from Vancouver who, wearing a white shirt and tie, became a dog handler to one of the dog mushers. He'd leap on the sleigh when the team crossed the finish line and expertly mush the team up to its truck.
"I've dined out on that for months," he said.
Then there was the time that the late Paul Rimsted, a magazine writer from Toronto, went missing.
At least that's what the head office thought when his publisher sent a series of unacknowledged telegrams telling him to come home.
Rimsted was in Whitehorse. For several days in a row, he said goodbye to his friends, but somehow never got out of town.
About two days after the last farewell, they met him again looking bedraggled and dazed at the local liquor store, where he was buying overproof rum.
"I've never curled before," he said, "but I ended up in this bonspiel with a guy called Bill. Look at my hands, they're covered with blisters. I gotta hurry back to the rink ... We're winning!"
Come to think of it, that episode took place shortly after a Rendezvous, but you get the idea.
There will be a giant parade, a new Queen crowned, and a thousand attendant stories of what happened during all the fun. Some kid from out in the bush will probably astonish the crowd with his or her prowess at some winter sport. The Can-Can girls will make the rafters ring with their shrieks and screams, and they'll kick higher than ever.
The costumes will be more gorgeous, and the beards bushier than ever.
And when it's all over, there'll be a nice feeling of unity among northerners and visitors, that by Gawd, we survived another winter!
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