Part of the reasons we traveled to Inuvik end of March was to attend the Muskrat Jamboree. Communities from around Inuvik and the wider Beaufort Delta area gathered to participate to the yearly event which lasted four days and featured traditions from the Northern Arctic region.
The Jamboree indeed offered traditional Arctic winter activities for everyone. From kid-friendly fun like egg throwing, bag jumping, to adventure and thrill seekers with skidoo racing and dog sled competition, there was an event for everyone. Other events included a jigging contest, drumming and dancing performances, log sawing and ice carving competitions, and a community feast. And of course, the traditional muskrat skinning!
I was excited about the opportunity to see a local festival, and the Muskrat Jamboree did not disappoint. Participation and mood were high. The visitors showed their enthusiasm, a reflection of the Arctic Canada’s traditions.
The weather was overcast and the temperatures deepened sharply to -25 C but that did not damper the spirit of the party.
The Thrill of Skidoo Racing
The skidoo race was held on the Mackenzie River -turned ice road during the winter season. The tracks were built through the snow, crossing over the highway. The road stayed open to traffic but several volunteers monitored it for safety reasons. The machines were fast, reaching up to at least 80-100 mph in the straight line. A few of the snowmobiles looked small but very powerful, sometimes turning the corner on one ski, and sending fluffy snow flying in all directions.
We were really impressed by the speed and power of the machines but even more so by the skills of their experienced drivers. Since we had driven our own snowmobile the same morning, I had a fresh memory how awkward and painful my driving had been in comparison. I was not ready to race!
Traditions & Drumming Performances
The evenings were filled with dances, performances, and drumming. Dressed in traditional colorful clothes, dancers of all age participated in the events, from youngsters barely walking to senior of many decades. The drummers accompanied the dancers through rhythmic patterns. What a delight it was to watch centuries-old performances.
Youngs danced as well, and it was really cute to see the little ones mimicking the older dancers. Two of them were especially awesome to watch. Father and son, or young and older brothers, I don’t know, but their complicity and love for dancing were obvious.
Of note was an older lady, an Elder probably, who danced most of the performances. Her traditional clothes on, her serenity and intensity dancing were felt through the room.
Most of the performances were by professional and amateurs dancers. Other like the jigging contest was open to the public which run for at least 30 minutes. It probably lasted longer, but we had to leave. What a dance! Kudos to the dancers that hold their footsteps in this neverending dance!
Arctic Food Tasting
One of the cool aspects of the Festival is a chance to taste the unique food, such as caribou burger, moose soup, and famous bannock. Real yummy and worth planning a visit just in itself.
The trapper competition consisted of hole digging, ice-fishing, starting a fire over the ice, with the end goal to cook food and a hot tea. The bannock must be perfectly cooked and will be tasted by the judges as part of the winning selection.
It was definitely a great festival to attend, and we were glad we attended asides from our other winter adventure activities mushing our own dog sled team and camping on the tundra, and snowmobiling to follow the reindeer migration.
More information on this year’s Muskrat Jamboree date on Destination Inuvik