The Dakhká Khwaán Dancers at Wondercrawl 2021. (Courtesy/Jona Barr)

The Dakhká Khwaán Dancers at Wondercrawl 2021. (Courtesy/Jona Barr)

Wonderhorse Festival returning to Yukon for third year

Festival launches new ‘pay it forward’ purchasing model

The Wonderhorse Emerging Arts and Music Festival is back for a second summer with a breadth of performances and events planned in Whitehorse, Carcross and Dawson City over Labour Day weekend.

This multidisciplinary, multi-venue, all-ages festival is being put on by The Society of Something Shows, which has been organizing and presenting community-focused arts events in the Yukon since 2017.

The first event is on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. in Dawson City. Toronto rapper Haviah Mighty will be performing a concert at Dënäkär Zho in the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) ballroom. Mighty is the first hip hop artist to win the Polaris Music Prize (2019) and first woman to win a Juno Award for Rap Album/EP of the Year (2022).

She will also perform a late-night concert with Princess Melia as her opener at the Elks Lodge in Whitehorse on Sept. 2 at 10:30 p.m. Her shows are being co-presented by KIAC and the Yukon Arts Centre.

Other Friday programming in Whitehorse includes the 2022 Battle of the Bands, presented by the BYTE – Empowering Youth Society as well as the annual Wondercrawl along the Whitehorse waterfront. In the crawl, 20 artists and presenters will showcase innovative installations such as a labyrinth made of Christmas lights.

Pop-up shows and workshops will take place all afternoon on Sept. 3 in different venues around downtown Whitehorse. Artist Asia Hyde will reveal a newly finished wall mural at Road Dogs Music Supply and there will be a wide selection of live music until after midnight.

On Sept. 4, Wonderhorse makes its final move to Carcross for a youth skateboarding competition at the skate park and an evening concert at the Carcross/Tagish Learning Centre.

Program coordinator Zach McCann-Armitage calls the festival a “hodge-podge of different elements coming together.”

The idea stemmed from producing DIY projects with the Society of Something Shows and “sprucing them up to make them special,” he said.

“It’s the result of a collaborative, group vision.”

McCann-Armitage wants to continue growing the event and “championing marginalized artists” in years to come. He acknowledges the importance of sustainable growth and building a strong scaffolding with responsible financial management.

Production manager Norah Paton says she thrives working in small organizations, especially those committed to making art accessible.

Her favourite part of last year’s Wonderhorse was the day in Carcross.

“We weren’t sure how the skate competition was going to go, so just seeing the amount of people that showed up and the enthusiasm of three generations of people dancing at the concert afterwards was so heartening,” she said. “It’s the reason why we do this.”

McCann-Armitage said it validated a lot of what they were trying to do with Wonderhorse and set the bar high for this year. He sees merit in thinking beyond standard programming and doesn’t want to “pigeonhole” the festival or make it only about music.

He wants to work from the ground up and build trust and accountability while cultivating a collective goal of getting people excited about community projects.

Paton says this year’s festival will be moderately bigger than last year’s. She and McCann-Armitage are cautious about expanding too quickly. They want to hold onto what worked last year and make sure anything new aligns with the overall integrity of the festival.

The Wonderhorse production team put out a call for artist submissions for the first time this year and pinned down additional venues such as the Yukon Theatre on Wood Street.

“People in the arts community have been looking at that venue for the last 10 years and scheming about all the different things they could do in there,” said Mccann-Armitage. “There’s a lot of character in that space.”

What sets Wonderhorse apart from other festivals in the Yukon, according to Paton, is an emphasis placed on youth. The festival strives to present a diverse selection of emerging artists while meeting young people where they are at.

This means developing a unique ticketing system that ensures there are no financial barriers when it comes to attending any of the events.

“The way we’re selling tickets is not normal for here,” said Paton.

This year, Wonderhorse is selling day passes only for Saturday instead of tickets to individual shows. They are letting patrons pick their own price and testing a pay-it-forward purchasing model.

“What this means is if you are someone who has deeper pockets and feels comfortable adding a donation when you pay for your ticket, that donation allows us to offer more affordable tickets to people 18 and under and helps us make sure Wonderhorse keeps on happening.”

Paton says paying it forward helps cover costs for young people, “who are a big part of why we’re doing this.”

Pay it forward passes are $60 each and include unlimited come and go access to all venues and shows on Saturday.

Every time someone pays it forward, they help cover the cost of three $10 youth day passes or one $30 regular day pass for someone who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend.

“Deeply discounted” $10 youth tickets are also available for the Friday night Haviah Mighty concert. Regular tickets are $30.

Paton saw Haviah Mighty perform in 2019 while working for the MEGAPHONO music festival and said this is an “amazing deal for the show you are getting.”

There is also the option to purchase a multi pass, which includes one ticket to either Haviah Mighty concert, one Saturday day pass, and one Wonderhorse T-shirt and button.

The Wondercrawl on Friday evening and all events in Carcross on Sunday are free.

To purchase a Haviah Mighty ticket, Saturday day pass or full festival multi-pass, go to

If you can’t afford a ticket or are interested in volunteering for the festival, email

Contact Magan Carty at