Yukon’s reaction to Rendezvous name change ‘unacceptable, frightening:’ society

Sourdough Rendezvous Society issued a letter explaining name change; decrying harrassment

The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society has asked Yukoners to “stop the hate” in a letter explaining the decision to change the festival’s name.

“In the past week there has been a lot of feedback surrounding our rebranding effort. Much of this is due to a lack of information,” said the letter, signed by the society’s board of directors.

Last week, the Rendezvous Society announced they would be shortening the festival’s name from “Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous” to “Yukon Rendezvous.”

Festival president Tyson Hickman told the CBC last week that the term “sourdough” — which stems from the Gold Rush-era term for a person who lived in the North through the winter — recalls the territory’s colonial history, and the 57-year festival was due for a brand refreshment.

The decision received significant criticism from members of the community who connected dropping the “sourdough” with erasing history and tradition. Local Facebook groups exploded with comments, and an online petition garnered more than 3,200 signatures.

The Rendezvous society’s board said they have received hate, bigotry, threats of vandalism and bullying.

“Our office has always been a place that encourages respectful discussion and debate, but the actions of a few people within our community last week are unacceptable and, frankly, frightening,” the letter says.

Many of the name-change-naysayers decried Rendezvous for changing. The board’s letter conceded that the festival has undergone significant shifts in 57 years.

“The festival has evolved as the years have, it has changed to meet requirements of an ever changing world, and it has developed according to the values of those who put in the hard work to make it happen,” the letter says.

The board of directors clarified that the society name has not changed from the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society.

“Our rebrand was not an attempt to erase our history, only to refresh our public face, give ourselves a less formal name … and to continue to promote openness and inclusivity within our festival, and our community,” the letter says.

The society committed to running a public survey after this year’s festival. Yukoners can use that forum to provide “meaningful and constructive” feedback. The board also invited Yukoners with marketing experience to join the public relations committee and assist with the survey.

“We’ve heard you Yukon, now it’s time for you to hear us,” the letter closes.

“We are calling on all Yukoners to stop the hate and put your passion into practice. Attend our festival this year in whatever way you feel comfortable … or one day you might just find yourself writing a Facebook post wondering why the festival has disappeared.”

This year’s Rendezvous Festival will take place from Feb. 12 to 28. Many events will go digital or happen in small numbers, with entry and exit points and one-way traffic where possible.

Snow sculptures will return to Shipyards Park and Midnight Sun Fireworks will be lighting off a show on Saturday, which will also be live-streamed. Other events will include a digital pet parade and a fashion challenge.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

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