Silver Linings, a Parks Canada exhibition by Miriam Behman and Justin Apperley, showcases a series of 4x5 tintype photographs of present day Dawson City. It will be exhibited at the Old Fire Hall for Culture Days on Sept. 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Submitted photo)

Culture Days comes back to Whitehorse with in-person activities, events

Clay sculpting, poetry readings, live music, moose hide tanning, photo walks and a heritage-themed scavenger hunt — the upcoming Culture Days weekend in Whitehorse has a little bit of something for everybody.

And unlike parallel events taking place across the country, everything on offer in Whitehorse Sept. 26 and 27 will be taking place in-person, not online.

“It really does sort of speak to … where provinces are in terms of COVID across the country, in terms of being able to gather,” Yukon Arts Centre programming director Michele Emslie said in an interview Sept. 23 (the centre has organized the majority of activities.)

“I mean, we are very blessed to be in this COVID-free bubble (in the Yukon) right now … and so allow us to do more in-person things, certainly within COVID protocols, but yeah, we’re very lucky.”

Culture Days is a national celebration for heritage and culture founded in 2010 that’s typically held during the last weekend of September.

This year, it’s become a month-long, largely virtual experience in other jurisdictions.

However, Emslie said organizers in the Yukon felt that online events wouldn’t serve the community properly, “and so we decided to just go to the weekend as per usual.”

“I suppose we’re offering the same sort of activities, really, in a nutshell,” she said.

“It’s just changed the way we’ve done it, and limited the number of participants.”

That means that some performances and workshops will require attendees to register online beforehand (anyone who registers for an event but can’t make it is asked to notify the Yukon Arts Centre as soon as possible to allow for someone else to take the space). However, there are a few drop-in options as well, like a bike decorating workshop for kids, and with most of the festivities taking place at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC), Emslie said the best bet for people who haven’t signed up for anything is to walk by and see what’s happening.

Among the no-registration options is the moose hide tanning camp that’s being held behind the KDCC where, weather permitting, camp participants will be finishing off one of the several hides they’ve been working on for the past three weeks.

“If the weather is good on Saturday, we’re hoping to put a hide in the stretcher to soften it, and if the weather holds out, we’re also hoping to smoke a hide this weekend,” KDCC cultural programs manager Courtney Wheelton said in an interview Sept. 24.

“We don’t want rain and we don’t want a lot of wind. So the last two weekends have been beautiful so if we can keep it up for one more, we’re very excited.”

Other no-registration-needed highlights, Emslie said, will include an exhibit at the Old Firehall of tintype photographs recently taken by Parks Canada staff. The photos feature people dressed up in old costumes but also wearing face masks, creating a somewhat unsettling juxtaposition between Gold Rush aesthetics and a symbol of a very relevant issue.

The Yukon Historical and Museums Association is also hosting a self-guided scavenger hunt, and, at the KDCC, people can sign up on-site for a spot on a school bus that will take them on a “mystery tour” of as-yet-undisclosed locations (Emslie said she couldn’t say where the bus would go, but that the mystery tour typically takes attendees to buildings “that either you normally don’t get into or there’s a little twist or you wouldn’t think about going there or they’re just fun”.)

And for attendees looking for more things to occupy their children, never fear — the Midnight Sun Moppets Children’s Festival is also being held at the KDCC the same weekend.

The festival had originally been scheduled to take place during the May long weekend, like it had been in 2019, but had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. However, the Yukon Arts Centre didn’t want the idea of it to go to waste.

“We really wanted to serve families in the community and throw a festival and it just kind of made sense to do it at the same time (as Culture Days),” Emslie said.

Little ones can look forward to performances from fan favourites like eco-singer-educator Remy Rodden as well as Claire Ness and the Swing Sets, along with a parade featuring Nakai Theatre’s giant, whimsical puppets.

With the wide variety of options available, Emslie said she thought there would be something interesting for anyone who comes by.

“The hardest part was trying to decide, ‘What can’t we do?’ rather than, ‘What can we do?’” she said.

“We’ll be physically distancing but I think it’s going to be a fun little community event before, you know, winter comes.”

A full list of Culture Days activities in the Yukon as well as opportunities to register for workshops is available online at culturedays.ca/en/events?province=YT

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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