As a member of The Grascals, I recently had the privilege of playing The Kluane Bluegrass Festival in Haines Junction. Though I’ve travelled Canada extensively, this was my first time in the Yukon.
I’ll minimize precipitating events, but let’s just say that getting to Whitehorse was fraught with problems. Only two of 16 musicians, encompassing three different bands, made the flight from Vancouver. Both Canadian and American airlines were unwilling to help us arrive on time. Their best offer would have meant missing the entire first day. We knew there was ample seating on a flight whose arrival offered time to spare, but it was on a competing, homegrown airline, Air North.
After exhausting every effort, we accepted hotel and meal vouchers and left matters in the hands of the festival promoter, John. Somehow, he was able to get us on Air North.
From the moment we stepped up to the ticket counter, everything changed. These people weren’t just professional; they were accommodating, reassuring, and dare I say, even happy? It seemed as if they were trying to compensate for others’ lack of customer service, to somehow redeem their country’s goodwill in our minds. We already knew Air North was different and we hadn’t even made it to security.
At our gate, we felt victorious; we were gonna make our shows! There is, however, an ever-present obstacle musicians face, when flying. Though there is almost always room on-board, they try to take our instruments! Most of us would at least consider checking our kids instead. “May I check the child? He’s roughly the same size as the banjo.” So, when Air North made the announcement that all musicians should pre-board to ensure there would be room for our instruments, we couldn’t believe it. This was unprecedented!
In-flight, we got a delicious hot meal, followed by cheesecake that was way better than the slice I just paid $5.99 for in Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The casually personable attendants kept our cups full of our chosen brew, mine being tasty coffee that I learned (like the food) is from Whitehorse. It warmed my body, just like the hospitality warmed my soul. We all wondered, “Who are these people?”
Now, I know the answer. They are Yukoners.
We met many special people at the festival and even got to fly to and land on a glacier, with Mt. Logan in the distance. We felt blessed to see such rare, untamed magnificence up-close.
That’s really what the Yukon is, isn’t it? Magnificent. It’s a special place and only special people are suited for a land so largely untouched by humanity. As I bragged on Air North, I sensed the residents’ pride in THEIR airline.
Thank you, Air North, for helping us arrive in-time to share our music. Thank you, even more, for your excellence that reflects the inherent nature of your home. You introduced us to the most precious resource the Yukon offers … her people.
Kristin Scott Benson
Boiling Springs, SC