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Beluga Jamboree marks its 50th with triumph

Jemra Gruben guides her dog sled towards the finish line during the Beluga Jamboree on April 17. The Arctic Ocean was transformed into a race track to the delight of festival-goers. Eric Bowling/NNSL Photo

It was a year late but no less of a party as Tuktoyaktuk's Beluga Jamboree marked its 50th with triumph April 16 to 19. The Arctic coast became a full racetrack and fairground for a celebration two years in the making.

First among the Jamborees to receive conditional approval from the Chief Public Health Officer, the Beluga Jamboree set the standard on how to hold a festival in the Covid-19 era. The opening ceremonies, talent and jigging contests were all broadcast online by the Inuvialuit Communications Society and the festival itself was spread across the bay to keep people socially distanced.

A snowmobiler gets some airtime during the Men's Open Class cross country on April 17. Racers darted around the island chain on the bay. Eric Bowling/NNSL photo

"A big thank you to the GNWT for giving us the opportunity to have our jamborees back in the Delta," said Mayor Erwin Elias during the opening ceremonies. "I think it's very important that this was done for our people and it showed throughout the last few weekends how everybody is enjoying themselves.

"2020 was supposed to be a huge year for Tuktoyaktuk, as it was our 50th anniversary of being incorporated as a hamlet. I'd like to thank all the contestants who worked tirelessly in 2019 and all that supported their fundraising efforts as well."

A marble carving proudly overlooks the Arctic Ocean from Tuktoyaktuk. Immortalized in the stone are leaders from the hamlet's past, including John Steen, who was honoured with a plaque April 16. Eric Bowling/NNSL Photo

Elias also presented a plaque in honour of John Steen Sr., who was instrumental in the incorporation of the hamlet. Tuktoyaktuk is the first community to be incorporated north of the Arctic circle.

Traditional foods were available throughout town and local groups held barbecue fundraisers to bolster their work. Dog sled races were held April 17 and snowmobile races around the islands kept crowds entertained throughout the widespread festival.

Inuvialuit Drum Dancers helped ring in the festival at the opening ceremony, held at Kitti Hall. Kitti Hall also served as the headquarters for the jigging and talent shows.

Events closed with the Men's 150 mile open track race, where the best snowmobilers in the Delta went head to head for a $10,000 prize.

Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson wished everyone a fun festival and prayed for good health for all. He thanked Dr. Kami Kandola for her support in helping the organizers prepare, noting they've been planning the Jamboree since last November.

"We've been through a lot in the last 18 months as a community, but we're still standing," he said. "The sun is back, spring is in the air.

"Please be safe and have a good weekend."

A sled dog takes a snow bath after finishing a race April 17. The dogs had run far out past the edge of the coastline, so chances are the pooch earn it. Eric Bowling/NNSL photo


About the Author: Eric Bowling

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