Klondike Days, dubbed “Wisconsin’s #1 winter family fun festival” by the Wisconsin Dept of Tourism, is an annual weekend event held each winter (February or early March) in the Northeastern Wisconsin town of Eagle River. Klondike Days has several unique winter events meant to highlight the traditions and history of the area.
History of Klondike Days
Klondike Days officially kicked off in 1991, completing a decade-long evolution of what began as the Eagle River Freight Dog Race in February 1981. These dog races became increasingly popular during the 1980s, attracting teams from throughout the continental U.S., Canada and Alaska. Major sponsors like Tuffy Dog Food also helped put this event on the map. Because of the popularity and success of the dog run, organizers began discussions about creating additional events like skiing, snow shoeing, tobagoning, and sledding — turning it into an all-around winter festival.
During the late 1980s, organizers were approached with the idea of moving the event into town to create more exposure and to showcase Eagle River’s businesses. Organizers also believed that when tourists experienced Eagle River’s natural winter beauty, they would want to come back year after year.
With the Eagle River Chamber of Commerce on board, the event was a “go.” One major thing that needed to be decided was the name. The first suggestion was “Ice Fest”. However, local resident John Jasper had a better idea. He told organizers they needed a name that reflected the area’s rich Native American cultural history, as well as the pioneering spirit of the early settlers. He suggested the event be called Klondike Days. Event organizers agreed and adopted the name right away.
The first major sponsor of Klondike Days was local businessman Trig Solberg. Because of his early involvement with the event, many people today refer to it as Trig’s Annual Klondike Days of Eagle River. Moving the event to town turned out to be a big success. Today, as many as 10,000 or more people attend this winter weekend festival annually. Proceeds from the event go to fund college and university scholarships for local high school students, as well as a variety of other projects to improve the area’s infrastructure.
Klondike Days Events
Since Klondike Days began, officials have been steadily evolving and adding new attractions. Today, there are a wide variety of events, attractions and entertainment for everyone in the family to enjoy. Some of the major events include:
- History Encampment: A historical re-enactment of life during the North American fur trade era of the pre-1840s.
- Northwoods National Championship Dog Weight Pull: Sanctioned by the Tri-State Alaskan Malamute Club, dogs racing in this event are asked to “pull their weight” in dog food. The event runs both Saturday and Sunday and cash prizes are awarded both days to the winner.
- Great Northern Lumberjack Competition: Klondike Days coincides with the start of lumberjack season, drawing in world champion lumberjacks to kick off the season by showcasing one of the great traditions of the Northwoods.
- Snowshoe Challenge: Men and women of varying ages and skill levels can compete in the 3 or 6 mile snow shoe races. There are also races for kids 10 years and under and 1 or 3 mile “tromps” for those who don’t want to compete, but still want to enjoy a cool winter day in the great Wisconsin outdoors.
Other Klondike Days events include:
- Vintage Sleigh Rally
- Chainsaw Carving Competition
- Native American Cultural Exposition
- Arts & Crafts Show
- Horse Weight Pull
- Old-fashioned Sleigh Rides
- Pony Rides
- Junior Musher Rides
- Numerous Kids Events
- Bluegrass Festival and Other Live Entertainment
- Lots and Lots of Food!
For more details on Klondike Days events, dates, times, and other information, go to http://www.klondikedays.org/
[Image: Courtesy of Mike Crowley; available for sale at his website Life in the Northwoods]