Rendezvous Ball takes a steampunk spin

At the mature age of 51, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival is proof it's never too late for your first Steampunk ball.

At the mature age of 51, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival is proof it’s never too late for your first Steampunk ball.

The lifestyle movement, which combines Victorian-era clothing with steam-powered machinery, fits in nicely with this year’s theme: the future is now.

Outfits at the ball, held on Feb. 20 at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, will feature corsets, goggles, gowns, bustles, top hats, waistcoats and timepieces.

It’s a significant shift from last year’s festival, a retrospective affair that looked back at the past 50 years of Rendezvous.

Executive director Rachel Morgan said the new theme, the result of an online poll, represents a new beginning for the festival while staying true to its roots.

“Last year was the 50th and a lot of people were talking about moving forward, and where Rendezvous would be in the future,” she said.

“We’re still bringing back the iconic events from the past such as the axe throw, flour packing and log toss – but we’ve a brand new staff and board, it’s a big turnaround for us.”

Another new activity is the public snow carving event, which takes place on Feb. 19-20.

Held in conjunction with the international snow carving competition, it’s an opportunity for people of all ages to try their hand at sculpting snow blocks.

Morgan said tools will be provided and a teacher will be on hand to help bring imaginations to life on five smaller blocks.

The event is a throwback to when people would carve snow on their front yards, Morgan said, and judges would drive around town picking the best sculptures.

It’s how Whitehorse’s Donald Watt, one of the best in the world, got started.

He knew Rendezvous was offering a cash prize for the best snow sculpture and he needed the money to visit his wife and daughter in Winnipeg.

“I bought a ticket on spec that I would win the competition, and carved this piece, and I won!” he told the News in Jan. 2013.

Morgan said organizers wanted to bring the idea of getting local people involved back to the festival.

On Feb. 21, the Mad(am) Trapper contest gets underway, and this year’s event might feature some special guests from far away.

It’s yet to be confirmed, but the Russians might be coming, Morgan said with an ominous tone.

If the team makes it, they’ll be taking part in the flour packing competition, which showcases some of the life skills necessary to survive in the Yukon at the turn of the century.

Contestants strap on a pack, which is attached to a safety gantry, and walk as far as they can (up to 50 feet).

“Of course in Russia they don’t use a gantry,” she said, “and they can pack over 1,000 pounds on their backs.”

Richard Chippett holds the record for men at 1,002 pounds and a distance of 44 feet, while Dawn Kisoun is the women’s record-holder with 664 pounds, according to the Rendezvous website.

The festival has seen a number of special guests over the years, such as KFC’s Colonel Sanders in 1973 and the Canadian men’s Olympic volleyball team in 1984.

Rendezvous wraps up on Sunday, Feb. 22 with Fred Penner performing two sold-out shows.

A parade featuring your favourite Rendezvous characters kicks off at 3 p.m.

Contact Myles Dolphin at