Tunes at the top of the world – A jaunt to the Dawson City Music Festival
Jamie Hazlett/Sun Star Reporter
July, 11, 2011
The world of music has many gatherings where performers come together to share their songs. Think Coachella. Think Lollapalooza or the Isle of Wight Festival. Think Dawson City.
Wait, many of you are thinking. Dawson City? As in, that little place in Canada that has all of 2000 residents?
Indeed, this tiny town in the Yukon Territory annually plays host to bands both local and international. This weekend (July 15-17) will mark the 33rd year of the event, and the festival’s official website boasts that the musical stylings will range from “traditional drumming” to “high-octane blues-rock, a fiddling aviator, and a yam puppet.” A glance at the lineup leaves no doubt that there will be something for every taste, and a weekend pass to the event ($129.00 per person) guarantees entrance to all of the festival’s outdoor venues. Admission to the smaller indoor events are covered by the pass, but these events are limited to building capacities, so get there early. Tickets can be purchased from the festival’s official website.
Parents will be pleased to hear that children are welcome at this family-friendly event, although they are prohibited from the beer gardens. Saturday will feature KidFEST, with face painting, craft projects, children’s entertainers and more, designed specifically to make the little ones a part of the festival. Daytime and evening events make it possible to fit naptime around the can’t-miss shows.
Dawson City is admirably easy to access from Fairbanks. Flights are available, or you can take the scenic route and drive. Road-trippers will follow the Alaska Highway from Delta Junction to just past Tok, where the Taylor Highway takes off. Thirty miles past the town of Chicken, the Top of the World Highway intersects the Taylor and heads towards Canada. The Top of the World will take you over eighty miles of phenomenal views before dropping you straight into Dawson City itself. Anyone driving should be aware of the fact that a portion of the Taylor Highway is gravel; additionally, double-check that you have your passports before leaving home.
Once you’re in Dawson, options abound. You can vie for a hotel room or take advantage of the summer temperatures and camp at one of the city’s numerous campgrounds. RV parking is also available. The various festival events take place throughout town, so check out the official website before you go to decide where you’ll be spending most of your time. Food will be available from festival vendors as well as Dawson’s established restaurants, or you can opt to bring your own. No outside alcohol will be allowed in the events, but beer gardens will be open for anyone 19 and over.
If you find yourself needing a break from the heat and crowds, check out Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall, the oldest casino in Canada. You do have to be at least nineteen to enter, but once you’re inside there’s a wealth of gambling opportunities and other amusements. Those looking for a less raucous experience should head for the Dawson City Museum, which features re-enactments, costumed interpreters, and even a train shelter featuring four restored locomotives from the Klondike Mines Railway.
Fans of a good story ought to head for the Jack London Interpretive Museum, which features his reconstructed log cabin. Just down the street is the home of another famed writer of the North, Robert Service. Other sites relating to Dawson’s golden past are the S.S. Keno, the Palace Grand Theatre and Claim #6. The steamer Keno was responsible for carrying goods and raw material between Dawson and the rest of the world, and is now open for the public to walk through and explore. Built in 1899, the Palace Grand offers a glimpse into the pastimes miners had to look forward to on their rare trips to town. Finally, Claim #6, the spot from which the Klondike Gold Rush was launched, is an ideal spot for anyone bitten by the gold bug; visitors can pan for the precious metal at no charge, and may keep any that they find.
Although Dawson City offers so many different attractions no excuse is needed to visit, the Dawson City Music Festival makes for a great one. Take a little trip across the border and check out our Canadian neighbors’ music scene. While you’re there, you are sure to gain a better appreciation for the mutual history that binds Alaska and the Yukon Territory together. A weekend of adventure, pain-free learning and great music; now that’s something to party about.