Nestled in the old gold-rush town of Dawson City, Alaskan teams took the win of the 29th annual Labour Day weekend softball tournament after three years of border restrictions preventing their entrance.
“It’s always good to get there on the sweetness of the cup but you have awesome teams here,” said Fairbanks Skeeters winner’s coach Carlos Parker. “The competition has become phenomenal here in Dawson.”
Parker’s team won against the final match between Anchorage’s Wet Su, after the weekend plays with 11 teams including from Whitehorse, Inuvik, and Fort McPherson.
“I’ve been coming to this tournament in ‘99…bringing us together is like a family for one weekend,” said Parker, a retired Sergeant First Class with US army with four tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.“Then coming into Dawson, it’s more of a family because I get to meet so many people.”
“The Juliette’s [and] the Barry Pickers, I tell you…probably the funnest group of people I’ve been around,” he said describing the two teams from the NWT Western Arctic Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.
“They have me wanting to be from Tuk, you hear me, so it’s pretty awesome.”
The Inuvialuit and Gwich’in team Barry Pickers won the tournament last year, said Dawson organizer Dawn Kusugak Kisoun, originally from Inuvik.
For the second year in a row, Barry Pickers’ Kathleen Nogasak was honoured as Most-Valuable Player of for hitting home runs, alongside Ryan Gleason from Whitehorse.
“During the summer, ball is life,”said Nogasak, originally from Tuktoyaktuk and Oceans Girl team member. “Everybody lives at the field, such a good atmosphere and so much fun.”
The Mackenzie River Beaufort Sea region have been playing tournments from June to the end of August. Going to the September Labour Day weekend Dawson tournament for so many is their last hurrah become the snow comes.
“Even if you’re just starting out, just do it,” said Nogasak, her fifth time playing in the Dawson tournament. “Practice makes perfect.”
Originally playing for the Barry Pickers, Yellowknife evacuee Patrice Stuart, who is orginally from Tuktoyaktuk, says she wanted to make the most of her time waiting till she can go back, lifted for Wednesday.
“I had kind of just kicking around Inuvik just waiting for the evacuation order to be done so I can go back home, “ she said, as her third time playing at the tournament. “I love this tournament, I’m just really happy to be back.”
Inuvialuit and Gwich’in from Inuvik and Fort McPherson teams drove the nearly 800 kilometers along the gravel Dempster Highway, including the Julliette’s, residents mainly from Inuvik.
“It’s my second time,” said team member Angela Koe Blake. “It’s good to be back in Dawson playing a part of the Labor Day weekend tournament.”
“I’ve always played with my family in Tsiigehtchic,” she said. “That’s all baseball is about to me: family cheering each other on.”
Teams raise money to help cover the costs and are offered sponsorship. Koe Blake said her team was sponsored and housed by the Dawson City Bed and Breakfast owner Juliette Trish.
“She told us that we were a family and that’s what pumped us up.” she said “it’s all about love sharing love and giving love and everybody.”