Local harvesters and food enthusiasts gathered at the Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s Willideh site last weekend for the 10th annual Yellowknife Fall Harvest.
The fair, a collaboration among Ecology North, the Yellowknives Dene and The Wilfrid Laurier Centre for Sustainability, brought the foodie community together for food workshops, competitions and a community feast.
“This is great, a lot of people have come out. We’re looking forward to a good feast and it seems like everyone is enjoying themselves, and it hasn’t rained so that’s good,” said Craig Scott, executive director of Ecology North.
Celebrating the fall harvest in Yellowknife dates back to the mid-1950s when the community would gather for a much larger gardening celebration with a large array of fruit and vegetable competitions.
“It was the fall fair instead of the Fall Harvest Fair and so it was in like 1954, as far back as that we found some pictures,” said Molly Stollmeyer, a local food specialist with Ecology North.
The Yellowknife Gardening Cooperative started the modern edition of the Fall Harvest Fair 10 years ago. At that time, the fair was held inside Northern United Place and was a smaller event, centered around the gardening competition. Ecology North partnered with the Yellowknives Dene in 2013 to move the event out to Ndilo and this year to the Willideh site located across the road from the Yellowknife River day use area.
Over the years the event grew to include workshops and traditional game celebrations as well as different art exhibitions. The harvesting competition itself was not immune to the growth and change that the overall festival experienced.
“So we’ll have prizes awarded for 10 different categories, one that is particularly exciting is the tastiest pie so obviously that isn’t a vegetable but it encourages people to make some delicious pies with local berries and be able to maybe eat them at the potluck afterwards,” said Stollmeyer. “Other ones, like best dried fish, kind of diverge from the usual vegetables, but then the other ones are pretty typical like biggest potato, biggest cabbage, so we’ll see what people manage this year.”
Throughout the afternoon, the public was invited to take part in the community feast that was prepared by the organizers. YKDFN, Ecology North and the centre for sustainability prepared burgers, fish and cooked vegetables for a crowd that lined up close to 100 deep for a taste of the fresh food.