Klondike Days continues today - Sunday, March 6 - in Eagle River at the Northland Pines High School. Lumberjack competitions, horse and dog pulls, historical encampment, vintage sleighs, and inside the NPHS Field House you'll find unique gift items by many vendors, demonstrations, and much more!
WJFW - NBC12 - News Video of Klondike Days in Eagle River:
Klondike Days, a family-oriented gala event featuring a variety of turn-of-the-century activities, is planned for Eagle River Saturday and Sunday, Mar 5 and 6, 2011. Making our new home the first weekend of March. Highlights of the weekend long festival will be River Country Red's Rendezvous and Living History, North Woods Championship Dog Weight Pull, the one and two-horse Log Pull Classic, Hayward style lumberjack competition, the First National Bank chain-saw carving competition, the Native American cultural exposition and a huge winter craft show.
The entire event was developed to encourage families to enjoy the Northwoods in February, according to sponsoring organizations. The festival is billed as Trig's Klondike Days due to the sponsorship of Trig's food stores in Eagle River, Rhinelander, Minocqua, Wausau and Stevens Point. All the Klondike Days activities will be headquartered on the Eagle River High School and Rocking W Stable off Highway 45 North. Food will be available at two locations.
Most events are held from 9 AM to 4 PM both Saturday and Sunday. The Native American Cultural Exposition will be at 12:30 PM and 2:30 PM. The Northwoods Championship Weight Pull is 11 AM to 4 PM. The Lumberjack Competition is from 11:00 AM to 3 PM Saturday and NOON to 3 PM Sunday. The Horse Pull is from 11 AM to 3 PM. Saturday is the One-Horse Pull; Sunday is the Two-Horse Pull. Competition event times are subject to change.
While Klondike Days is an outside event with many animals, we ask that you leave your pets at home.
Klondike Days History
The year 2011 marks the 21st year of Trig's Klondike Days in Eagle River, Wisconsin -- "One of the most multi-faceted winter events in the nation."
Klondike Days got its start in the late 1980's when Eagle River residents and business professionals Perry Pokrandt, Sue Mirwald (then Eagle River Chamber of Commerce President), and the late Pete Maurer thought it would be a great idea to start a winter festival in Eagle River which would be good for business, as well as showcase the community's decades-long reputation for providing outstanding, family-oriented experiences in its pristine environment.
The first name considered for the event was "Ice Fest," but Conover resident, John Jaspar, told organizers he believed the name should reflect the history and pioneering spirit of Eagle River's original settlers and Native American culture, and suggested "Klondike Days," which was immediately adopted.
Eagle River stalwart and business owner, Trig Solberg, of Trig's Stores has been a major sponsor and supporter of Klondike Days right from the beginning. The first event featured dog sled races and dog-pulls at Eagle River's World Championship Snowmobile Derby Track.
According to long-time volunteer Larry Snedden, "the dog racing and pulling were great attractions, but the dogs didn't always want to cooperate, crossing over each other, and being, at least, somewhat independent." Nevertheless, Klondike Days was an instant success, and, unlike so many other like events, broke even its very first year, with a budget of $69,000 and 250 dedicated volunteers.
Today, the budget is measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are many loyal sponsors, and hundreds of equally loyal volunteers, many working year-round to make Klondike Days a success.
"Since the dog mushers and owners also noticed difficulty in keeping things on track, we started to look for additional events," Snedden says. Pokrandt suggested a "History of Logging" event, where loggers would cut, split, and stack wood. "People loved it, as did the participants," Pokrandt notes, and it went from there.
Then, when Pokrandt (whom many credit with being the primary driving force in establishing and nurturing the event, and, in the words of one local resident, "a visionary in the truest sense of that word") was in Wausau attending a summer outdoor event, he noticed a group of hobbyists/recreators who were providing a voyageur-type encampment.
Since he knew one of the group's principals, Pokrandt soon convinced the powers-that-be to do a full winter encampment at Klondike Days -- something never done before. Thus came about the world-famous and historically faithful Klondike Days Voyageur Encampment put on by the River Country Red's Rendezvous group to this very day.
Pokrandt remembers that after the initial funding and donations from businesses like Trig's, "personal sponsors and volunteers came out of the woodwork, and we never looked back."
"We also strived to include the rich culture and heritage of the Native Americans who were an integral part of the settling and expansion of the Eagle River area, fur trading, logging, fishing, hunting, and commerce," Pokrandt adds. "To this day, the Klondike Days Native American Exposition relates in
ever-growing detail the culture and heritage of our Native American brethren."
And each year, Klondike Days draws more people -- from around the world. The weekend crowds now approach 10,000 visitors, and Klondike Days venues include the High School, Rocking W Stables and adjacent surrounding fields, and other locations around Eagle River.
The events continue to expand, including the authentic Voyageur's encampment, with recreations of authentic period foods, clothing, housing, and activities; dog and horse pulls; the only winter competitive lumberjack event in the Midwest; chainsaw carving; live bluegrass, and local music; sleigh rides; educational lectures and exhibits, from making a drum to blacksmithing, and popping authentic kettle corn; Native American Cultural Expositions; a permanent, original fur trader's cabin; a fabulous juried craft show featuring over 100 exhibitors whose works are for sale; foods including buffalo burgers, Paul Bunyan brownies, and wild rice soup; snowshoe demos; dogsled rides, and our newest addition to Klondike Days; snowshoe races and the list goes on.
When asked why he did it in the first place, Pokrandt (who is no longer directly involved in administering Klondike Days) simply says, "I wanted to leave a mark -- a mark that would tell the wonderful story and history of our Eagle River area, and our wonderful local people. I hope I've helped do that."
Proceeds from Klondike Days help fund college scholarships for local high school graduates, as well as improving local infrastructure of all types.
And what does the future hold?
Klondike Days' current Executive Director, Christine Schilling puts it this way: "We want to continue our quest to bring joy, fun, and education to those thousands of families who come to Klondike Days -- and that means even better and more meaningful family events in a warm, affordable, and constantly upgraded and comfortable setting."
Eagle River, in northeastern Wisconsin, is about 241 miles north of Milwaukee; about 327 miles north of Chicago; and about 239 miles northeast of the Twin Cities.
For more information, contact the Eagle River chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center at 800-359-6315; e-mail them ; or visit Eagle River's Web site: www.eagleriver.org .