Yesterday’s News: Toonik Tyme’s late start ‘backfired’ in 1974
A weekly glance at Nunatsiaq News’ back issues in celebration of its 50th anniversary
With Iqaluit getting ready to celebrate the start of Toonik Tyme next week, this week’s peek into the archives looks at how the annual festival was reported on 49 years ago, back in 1974.
Each week during Nunatsiaq News’ 50th anniversary, we’re showing readers what the paper looked like over the years. In 1974, it was known as Inukshuk, a community newsletter that was published in Frobisher Bay (before its name was changed to Iqaluit) from 1973 to 1976.
In 1976, Inukshuk was sold and renamed Nunatsiaq News.
On May 8, 1974, Inukshuk’s main front-page headline reported “Toonik Tyme enthusiasm high for Panigoniak & Sugluc,” two concerts that were part of the annual festival.
According to the paper, the Charlie Panigoniak and Sugluc concerts drew “enthusiastic crowds.”
That year, the nine-day festival was “the longest Toonik Tyme yet.” It ended on May 4 — nearly a month later than it has run in recent years — and three weeks later than its traditional period.
For example, this year’s Toonik Tyme is scheduled to begin Friday, March 31 and go until April 9. The City of Iqaluit has declared a civic holiday on March 31, the first day of this year’s event.
In 1974 the late start “backfired,” Inukshuk reported, because the weather turned “unexpectedly and unseasonably cold for a time,” according to the news coverage.
Inukshuk then brought out a tried-and-true newspaper line commonly used for event coverage: “but that didn’t cool the enthusiasm of the crowds.”
More people from other Baffin settlements attended the annual festival, the paper said, because the Nordair airline extended its excursion time and a federal government grant helped out.
Back in 1974, the spring festival included contests, races, traditional games and music, Inukshuk reported.
The May 8 edition was all Toonik Tyme. The second story was about the festival’s 326-kilometre snowmobile race to Lake Harbour and back. Course marshal Tom Webster described it as “the most gruelling snowmobile race in the world.”
The course was known for its long, steep hills and a 90-degree left turn that was reported to be “hard under ideal snow conditions.”
“But a late Toonik Tyme this year meant soft snow, which made travelling more difficult,” the news story said.
“Flash” Kilabuk was that year’s winner for the third year in a row, with a time of nine hours, 45 minutes. Simonie Alainga finished second, followed by Ben Ell in third.
I hope someone eventually writes a book about Charlie, and would love to see his music made more available for future generations. I know some is available on iTunes, but only a little bit.