Pin trading goes ahead in Yellowknife despite AWG cancellation

The Arctic Winter Games may be cancelled but one of the most competitive sports at the Games – pin trading – is going ahead in Yellowknife.

Organizers in Whitehorse, which had been set to host 2,000 athletes from the circumpolar North next week, called off the Games last weekend over concerns about coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19.

When she heard the Games wouldn’t be going ahead, Yellowknifer Janet Pacey stepped up to organize an event she is calling Pin Fest 2020.


Athletes, and anyone else with an interest, will be able to trade Arctic Winter Games 2020 pins to ensure they aren’t wasted – and can also score some special pins Pacey has collected over the years.

The event will take place at Yellowknife’s Northern United Place from 1pm till 7pm on Wednesday, March 18.

This is my little way to get it out of my system.JANET PACEY

A small number of ultra-limited edition Cabin Radio Arctic Winter Games 2020 pins will be available at Pin Fest.

Meanwhile, Sport North – the body that organizes Team NT – said it was trying to get pins back from coaches in order to coordinate en-masse trades by post with other contingents.


Pins from other teams would then be distributed back to NWT coaches and their athletes. (Sport North has told coaches to ensure each NWT athlete keeps a set of Team NT pins, too. Athletes are usually given several sets to allow trades.)

Twenty years of pin trading

Pacey has been a leading Northwest Territories pin trader since 2000, the year she was asked by the CBC to design an Arctic Winter Games set for the broadcaster. Two years later, she attended the Games – part of her role was to pass out pins. 

“I got really into it,” she said. “It took about an hour until I was completely addicted.”

Twenty years later, Pacey estimates she has 12,000 to 15,000 pins in her collection. For most of the year they live in 50-pound fabric boxes in her closet, appearing biannually for her “every-two-year obsession” during the Arctic Winter Games.


Recently, Pacey said, more and more people have passed old pin collections to her – including some found at Yellowknife’s landfill. She spent the past six months sorting pins and placing them on fabric in preparation for the Games in Whitehorse, which were to have been the event’s 50th anniversary.

“I was so ready to go to the Games and then they were cancelled,” she said, explaining she was looking forward to passing some of her old collections on to kids at the Games. 

“This is my little way to get it out of my system,” she said of her Pin Fest plan. “Hopefully some kids are going want to be part of it, too, and get it out of their systems. It’s something to make them smile.”

Pacey doesn’t just trade pins. She’s also writing a book about pin trading and has been designing her own pin collections for the Arctic Winter Games since 2008.

This year’s collection is a nine-piece character set representing each of the nine contingents.

“They’re really tiny,” she described. “We call them jewel size … [they are] only about five-eighths of an inch.”

With Covid-19 top of mind, Pacey encouraged everyone to wash their hands before starting pin trading. She will have hand sanitizer available at Wednesday’s event.