Circus theme brings lots of colorful, crazy costumes


The 28th annual Buckwheat Ski Classic saw more than a few firsts.

A polar bear on skis, new timing tactics, and performers dancing on ribbons tied to the rafters at the banquet.
It was not the first year, however, that the Buckwheat was scheduled during the Arctic Winter Games and Canadian Junior Nationals.

Because of the scheduling conflict, the race lost 40-50 participants, which resulted in 328 people signing up.

Jeff Brady, secretary of the Log Cabin Ski Society, said the reduced numbers of elite Yukon skiers led to more Alaskans placing in the top three in the races, which included men’s and women’s: 10K, 25K, 50K and a children’s 5K.

Brady added that there are a few skiers from Juneau who win races every year, mentioning specifically the children.

“We had a lot of Juneau youth skiers for the second year in a row now,” he said. “They have a really good program, and this is their big event to end the year.”

This is the first year the racing bibs have had a tear-off portion so timers could more accurately monitor the place numbers racers came in.

After a participant was done skiing, he or she handed the removable piece to festive volunteers Helene Crouch (wearing her clown dress) and Roger Griffin (wearing a metallic, plastic hair wig) who kept them in order.

Brady said the tear-off aspect of the bibs was a good start, but they will be looking at computer chip-embedded bibs in the future that can record a racer’s start and finish time.

“So we’re still not a real race,” Brady said with a laugh. “But were now in the later stages of the 20th century.”

Jessica Medlin and Tiffany Metz of the Skagway Aerial Co. dazzle the awards banquet crowd with twists and shadows. KE

Jessica Medlin and Tiffany Metz of the Skagway Aerial Co. dazzle the awards banquet crowd with twists and shadows. KE

This year’s theme, “Life is a Circus,” added a couple more firsts to the race festivities.

Brady said the event had a lot more costumes that coincided with the race theme.

“Usually we get fairies and a few people in wigs,” he said. “But this year, we had a big old polar bear, a rocket girl, a multitude of clowns, and even some kids dressed up.”

Brady said he attributes the uptick in costume wearers to a prize for the best one.

Whitehorse’s Sunshine Giesbrecht, the “Rocket Girl” whose costume mimicked the well-known circus human cannonball routine, won an all expenses paid helicopter flight to Upper Dewey Lake, a night stay in the cabin for four people and food catered by Packer Expeditions.

Brady said the circus theme allowed for a heightened presence by the snow sculpture crew, and this was the first year there was a carving by the starting line.

The Saturday before the Buckwheat, Skagway’s Team Alaska carved a clown head near the Log Cabin parking lot during the Backcountry Bash and Ball to generate interest in helping the crew with the aid station, Brady said.

“That Sunday kicked off aid station construction and there were anywhere from 10-25 people everyday helping build the circus train animals,” he said.

Along with the carving crew, Brady said there were more than 120 volunteers, 110 of them being Skagway residents.

Skagway residents helping put the Buckwheat together is something that was not new.

“It’s a Skagway event,” Brady said. “It’s just held in BC because they have the snow.”

Recognized for his volunteerism this year was Skagway’s Matt O’Boyle, who received the Des Duncan Award.

O’Boyle was the most consistent trail crew volunteer this year,” Brady said. “He was our guy.”

With trail crew regulars being in and out of town this year, Brady said O’Boyle really stepped it up by grooming trails and setting tracks in Dyea and at Log Cabin all winter.

The race’s first annual Father Mouchet Inspirational Award, in memory of the Yukon’s father of cross-country skiing, was given to Joel Luet of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club. He was helping set track till 9 p.m. the night before the race and then skied 25K in the race.

Conditions were excellent, some of the best ever, said founder Buckwheat Donahue during the awards ceremony.

Complete results are posted at

Photos by Andrew Cremata and Katie Emmets