The 10th annual Beer Barge is happening in Old Town this weekend.
This year is the 10th year the Yellowknife Historical Society has been running the event, which they started doing during the city’s 75th anniversary celebrations.
“The beer barge commemorates the early days of Yellowknife when all the supplies came into town by barge, and apparently the first barge that they sent across the lake contained the most important item, and that was fresh beer,” said Walt Humphries, president of the Yellowknife Historical Society.
After a long ice breakup, the beer in town was in short supply and so they sent the essential items across first and the fruits and vegetables came later, Humphries said.
“It was quite an important event for the town, people would keep an eye out for the first barge coming in from Hay River, and the mines even gave the next day off to their employees, because everybody would rush down to the dock and help unload the barge and to sample the fresh brew,” said Humphries.
It was even written right in the union contracts that the day after the beer barge arrived was a holiday.
This year’s celebrations will include live music from Baby Brian’s Country Club, The Andrea Bettger Band, as well as a barbecue, cake and of course, beer.
“It’s a good party in Old Town, much like they used to have in days gone by,” said Humphries.
Humphries said this event is a good chance for newcomers to learn about the history of Yellowknife
“It’s a nice mix of old-timers and newcomers coming together, much like Yellowknife used to be years ago. Where people intermingled more and just got together to have a good time without too much fanfare.”
People are encouraged to dress up in period costumes, “just to make it a little more colorful” said Humphries, and there will be prizes for the best costumes.
“We hold the party at the Wardair Dock down in Old Town, and we actually have a barge come around the bay and dock at the site to re-enact the original barge arriving. Then people help us unload it and everybody has a beer,” said Humphries.
The event will also be a fundraiser for the society as they work toward building a new museum in the old Giant Mine recreation hall.
“It’s going to be a combination of a mining museum and Yellowknife museum so people get a feel for the early days and what Yellowknife’s all about and how the city grew,” said Humphries.
“It’s a historic building, that’s why we want to renovate it and turn it into a museum and an interpretive center for Yellowknife,”said Humphries.
The total estimated cost to renovate the Giant Mine recreation hall is $1.2 million, according to the society’s website and the cost to design and construct exhibits would be another $100,000 to $150,000.
“We’ve got a new roof and foundation on the building, we’re doing the walls this year and then we’ll start doing the interior. So we’re hoping in three or four years that we can get it together,” Humphries said.