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Beer Barge fundraiser returns to Yellowknife on June 17

A Yellowknife Historical Society image of a beer barge party
A Yellowknife Historical Society image of a beer barge party.

The Yellowknife Historical Society’s Beer Barge fundraising event is returning to Yellowknife on June 17 after a three-year pandemic hiatus.

This year, the event has moved to the Fishy People garden and dock and will run from 4:30pm until 10:30pm.

Billed as a “community spirit party,” the event celebrates a unique part of the city’s history by re-enacting the arrival of the first supply barge in Yellowknife after spring break-up.

Partygoers are encouraged to dress up in mid-century mining-town garb, with prizes for the best historic costumes.

“This barge always brought in the first shipment of beer for thirsty miners who, by this time, had run out of their winter supply,” explained the society’s secretary, Marie Adams, in an email.



The barge also brought things like vehicles, furniture, and construction materials until the highway connecting Yellowknife to the south was completed in 1960.

The caption lodged with the NWT Archives for this 1940s photo reads: “Beer was always number-one priority on the first barge in each spring, and there is the story (true, I believe) of the miner who joined the line of stevedores, walked down the gangplank with a case of beer under his arm, and disappeared down the street before anyone realized what had happened.”

Deryk Bodington/NWT Archives/N-1979-075: 0007

The arrival of the barge in the 1940s and 50s was therefore a time to celebrate – and for the past decade, something to commemorate. 



Old Town resident Dave Smith will be bringing a barge to the Fishy People dock, and there is talk of using it as a floating stage for the night’s musicians.

Live entertainment including a burlesque show is planned, but musical acts have not yet been announced. 

Tickets cost $25 and are only available in person at Fishy People, NWT Brewing Co, the Yellowknife Seniors’ Society and Quality Furniture. Unsold tickets will be available on the door.

Adams said the society used to charge more for the event and include food in the cost of the ticket, but with Fishy People and NWT Brewing Co providing food and beer at-cost this year, prices could be lowered.

“We just didn’t think we’d be able to pull it off, but with Fishy People and the Brewpub doing what they are doing … it all came together in the last week,” she said.

“Everyone is so excited. People are stopping me in the street.”

There are 350 tickets available. In the past, Adams said, the event has always sold out.

Funds raised will go toward the development and operation of the society’s Yellowknife Historical Museum, a new museum based in the former Giant Mine recreation hall, which is set to open in August.