Cod almighty: Yukon’s East Coast association to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Living about as far away from the East Coast as you can get and still be in Canada, it might be safe to assume St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Whitehorse are close to non-existent.

Living about as far away from the East Coast as you can get and still be in Canada, it might be safe to assume St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Whitehorse are close to non-existent.

That could be true if it wasn’t for a ragtag group from the East Coast ready to party and share their traditions.

For the fourth year in a row the Yukon East Coast Cultural Association is throwing its own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations this Friday March 17.

Two bands, The Finch Collective and The Leesiders will be playing at the Days Inn Pub.

Both are local Celtic bands, says Hiedi Cuppage, YECCA’s president.

The Leesiders had just broken up when the association asked them last May to play for the event.

“They committed for one night only,” said Cuppage. “They’ve been practising for the last few months, particularly for this event.”

“Who knows if they will play again.”

And Yukoners will have a chance to take part in the Newfoundland equivalent of the sourtoe cocktail: the screech-in ceremony.

It requires few, but very specific, ingredients: a born-and-raised Newfoundlander, a Newfoundland flag, a Newfoundland cod (preferably frozen), some of the East Coast’s finest rum — Screech — and a sculling oar.

The aptly named George Green will preside over the ceremony.

“You have to incorporate some traditional elements or it doesn’t count,” Cuppage said.

Green’s got a frozen cod from Newfoundland — that will stay frozen.

“If it was raw it would be nasty.”

The ceremony goes as follows: the person is wrapped in a Newfoundland flag, takes an oath of allegiance to the province, kisses the fish, is tapped on the shoulder with a sculling oar — Green uses a wooden needle used to knit cod traps his father made, Cuppage said — and takes a shot of Screech.

Last year YECCA hosted a screech-in ceremony during the Sourdough Rendezvous festival. For the occasion Green also made people taking part in the ceremony kiss a picture of Joey Smallwood, Newfoundland’s first premier.

Congrats: you’ve just become an honorary Newfoundlander.

Green himself isn’t new to sharing Newfoundland traditions with Yukoners. In 1993 he was the chair of the Yukon Newfoundland Association that boasted over 400 members, all Newfies.

The Whitehorse St. Patrick’s Day festivities put on by YECCA started informally four years ago in the form of East Coast music loaded on a USB stick played at the Town & Mountain Hotel lounge.

But then 300 people showed up throughout the night, so the association brought it back year after year.

“We broke records at the T&M that first night we were there,” Cuppage said.

It’s the association’s fourth anniversary, and it now has representatives from every Atlantic province except for P.E.I.

Cuppage grew up on the border of Quebec and New Brunswick and identifies as a “confused Maritimer.”

“Our whole intention is to bring a bit of East Coast culture to the Yukon,” she said.

Last year volunteers organized everything from renting the space to getting a liquor licence, which proved to be a lot of work for people with full-time jobs and families.

Because of past attendance, the association went “all out” on the liquor, but ended up with lots of unsold alcohol, Cuppage said.

This year, the Days Inn, formerly known as Club 867, is handling the alcohol and the venue.

There will be a photo booth — carved specially to resemble a pier — with all the St. Patrick’s Day props one could dream up.

“The Anne of Green Gables-type orange braids on tiny leprechaun hats last year was a hit,” Cuppage said.

“We expanded and got more stuff.”

While YECCA isn’t big enough yet to bring artists to town on its own, it’s partnered with the Atlin Arts and Music Festival, the Yukon Arts Centre and others to host shows in Whitehorse. It also organized an Easter egg hunt a few years ago, which Cuppage described as “interesting” as the temperature that weekend unexpectedly soared to 7 C.

At press time there were only 30 out of 200 tickets left. Displaced Maritimers, Newfoundlanders and St. Patrick Day’s aficionados alike can purchase tickets at the Westmark Hotel or the Days Inn.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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