The Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre Sewing Group flew on to the Quest scene for the 2017 race with the creation of 10 handmade dog blankets. And right after the successful inaugural year, they immediately began planning their 2018 contribution.
It remained a secret for an entire year until their 24 handmade beaded patch creations were unveiled at the finish and awards banquet Saturday evening.
The blankets created by the group in 2017 were accepted into Yukon’s permanent arts collection and this was recognized at the banquet with one of the blankets being received as a gift to the Quest. Board of Directors presidents Jean-Marc Champeval on the Yukon side and Ryan Hughes for Alaska accepted the blanket for the organization.
Not knowing how many finishers there would be from the 26 starting mushers, the team of 14 sewers started their work in October and ended up finishing 24 patches.
With 13 finishers, they were also able to award the patches to race officials and for the special awards.
Florence Moses is the leader of the sewing group and she said the partnership with the Quest went so well in 2017 that they were eager to work with the race again for this year’s race.
“We really enjoyed being a part of this,” Moses said following the unveiling of the patches. “It’s really a good community building project.”
Race manager Alex Olesen, race marshal Doug Harris and head veterinarian Nina Hansen were awarded patches as well as all 13 race finishers.
During the race, the group realized they have more patches then there would be finishers so they decided to specialize the remaining patches for the special award winners.
Anne Tayler took on the task of creating one specifically for the Vet’s Choice Award winner, an honour her husband Frank Turner won twice.
“It was a very important award for him,” Tayler said. “Almost more important than placing.”
She said her inspiration for the patch came from one of her favourite photos of her husband Turner leaning over a dog curled up and the intimacy and bond they shared.
“To see his love and you could see the dog’s love. That was for me why I did this separate patch,” she said.
The custom-made patch includes a combination of things based on both their experiences with the race and includes a beaver pelt and 14 abalone disks to symbolize each dog both at the start and the finish.
The patch was awarded to race winner Allen Moore for his achievement of finishing and winning the race with all of the dogs he started the journey with in Fairbanks.
“They kept going stronger and stronger,” Moore said while visibly emotional receiving the prestigious honour.
He concurred with Tayler that this award is an honour even more important than placing in the race.
Along with the special batch, Moore was awarded US$1,000 to go toward veterinary servives at a clinic of his choosing.
After all of the patches were given out by the members of the group who made them, Moses said although it takes a lot of time and effort the group is honoured to be involved with the race.
“If you look around at these smiling faces you know we really do enjoy what we do,” she said. “We love beading, we love sewing and to team up with the Yukon Quest – we’re a happy bunch.”
When asked if they plan to continue their partnership into next year, the group – full of smiles – said they have already discussed their willingness to continue and have another special presentation for the 2019 race.
Even though it takes a lot of time, effort and pain, Moses and her team all concurred it is worth it and are excited to see what the partnership brings for the next race.
“Yes, we have already started talking about what sore fingers we’ll have next year,” Moses said. “We still don’t know what the project is ourselves.”