burning away the winter...?
yesterday was the first day of spring. March 21st, 2005. we did it. we survived the yukon winter.
it was fitting that we should chase the winter chill from our bones yukon style...by burning it in the largest, gasoline-powered bonfire of bonfires.
the annual burning away the winter blues festival takes place every year in whitehorse on the spring equinox. people dress up, people dance, they beat on drums, they carry gas torches, flags, lanterns, wear masks, glowsticks and dragons.
several hundred people gather and march in a torch/candle lit procession along the banks of the yukon river to robert service campground where a huge papier mache effigy of winter is burned in a massive bonfire. people are encouraged to bring their paper representations of winter and cast them into the fire to burn baby burn.
the event started calmly enough and the big winter effigy was unveiled to the ohhs and ahhhs of the gatherred throng. that was where events went awry as the big paper dude prematurely burst into flames when one of the organizers tried to stick a lit flare into his head to make his eyes glow. old man winter really wanted to burn and his body caught fire. a fire extinguisher came to the rescue after winter stopped-dropped-and rolled to safety. see above photos. it was a comical scene as children ran screaming and parents shrieked in horror at the carnage. winter was salvaged with only 2nd degree burns to 45% of his body.
the march was about 1km and we were blasted by 50km/hr winds on the banks of the ice-jammed yukon river. who said winter was on the way out!!?? a candle-lit pathway led us to the 40 foot-long bonfire that was radiating incredible heat. Fire dancers were on hand to welcome the festival-goers.
after everyone had gathered, it was time to cast the big effigy of winter on the fire. Chants of "BURN HIM! BURN HIM! BURN HIM!" echoed throughout the campground. (ironic during easter week no?) finally, the time was at hand and the big dude was tossed into the middle of the swirling flames. old man winter wasn't going down with out taking someone with him however. soon, some flying embers from his face landed in a nearby tree and lit it on fire. aghast, the crowd all pointed up into the trees as we feared fire was going to consume us all!
not to worry, the fire department was on hand quickly to extinguish the danger and all was safe. all except for sarah that is as her nice wool coat was the victim of many a hot spark. jole cast his beard clippings in the fire and is officially beardless in whitehorse until next year's beard growing contest. we couldn't stick around for long as the heat from the fire was singeing our eyebrows.
we are looking forward to having some guests as mirna comes to visit this week. happy easter and bring on the spring!