Just say ‘I do’ in the Junction

HAINES JUNCTION Forget ore and pipelines, a group in this village wants to rev up the economy with banquets and bouquets.

HAINES JUNCTION

Forget ore and pipelines, a group in this village wants to rev up the economy with banquets and bouquets.

Planning to tie the knot? Do it in the Junction, says municipality treasurer Darlene Sillery.

Although it’s not in the treasurer’s job description, Sillery has taken the reins as the St. Elias Convention Centre’s resident wedding planner.

She’s working to turn the town of 800 into the Yukon’s wedding capital.

“I never dreamed I’d be doing this, but I fell into this and it’s been so much fun,” said Sillery as she walked through the windowed open spaces of the convention centre.

The building sits in the heart of the Junction. It houses the town’s municipal government, a museum-like exhibit on the history of Kluane and a grand hall with retractable seating for 240 during concerts, presentations and plays.

Now, it is looking to capitalize on the summer slowdown when the number of conventions and meetings that come through town drops off considerably.

So far, the building has been dressed up to host three weddings in 2004, eight in 2005 and five are already booked for the summer of 2006.

Sillery has helped a dozen couples tie the knot and, she says, “they’ve all been amazed at how simple it was.”

The centre’s million-dollar view can be rented for $210 an day. Adding linens, plates and cutlery supplied by the centre usually doubles the price.

The Junction boasts several justices of the peace who are more than happy to officiate at weddings.

And couples who hold their receptions at the centre can choose from dozens of breath-taking spots close to the Junction to hold the ceremonies.

Sillery has seen couples say their vows at picturesque sites like Pine Lake, Kathleen Lake, in Silver City on Kluane Lake, along Dezadeash River trail and even in the farm fields near town.

Some even go as far as the Haines Summit in British Columbia, Sillery says as she flips through a scrapbook packed with colourful photographs from each of the weddings.

For the reception there are eight caterers nearby who can serve up plates of fancy fare from salmon to sushi, and there’s one baker specializing in wedding cakes.

Non-profit organizations are at-the-ready to provide bar services, and an oldies rock band called The 1016 Band (named after the Junction’s original Alaska Highway mile post) will keep reception guests dancing late into the evening.

An elegant curved staircase leads down to the main floor, where a grand hall can seat about 200 for dinner, while a side foyer with large windows boasting a panoramic view of the snow-capped peaks of the Auriol Range can seat around 80.

“I attended a reception where we had 87; it worked but it was full service with skinny servers,” said Sillery with a laugh.

“It was amazing. It all came together so well,” said Kristen Froyland, one of the blushing brides who got married in the Junction last summer.

“Neither of us are from the territory and, since we’re starting our lives here together, we decided to get married in the Yukon,” said Froyland.

Froyland and Dale Ristau set an August 6th wedding date. They exchanged rings near Kathleen Lake and had a ceremony for 87 guests at the convention centre.

“It had a really cool atmosphere and vibe for everyone to come in and feel at home,” she added. “And it’s such a beautiful setting up there; it’s just breathtaking.”

Finding the northern venue was a stoke of luck for the couple, especially since planning a wedding in the Yukon can be challenging, said Froyland.

“We looked at the different facilities around Whitehorse and I really wasn’t that impressed with them.

“Haines Junction is a beautiful town, we found Darlene to be really accommodating and the price is right for the convention centre itself.”

So far the Junction attracts lovebirds from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan, but Sillery is working on expanding its draw.

She’ll be heading to industry conferences Outside and talking the place up.

And maybe, someday it will become a national wedding destination.