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Hamlet games a relief for all

Everyone pitches in to celebrate

The Hamlet Days this year in Baker Lake were unlike any other.

“Council and leadership … they went a little overdrive,” said Nathan Annanaut, recreation director for the hamlet.

“They were like, all right, let’s make it a big event for the Hamlet of Baker Lake. So I was able to triple the amount of games and double the prizes.”

Annanaut’s budget was doubled, but all the plans for the games were coming together at the very last minute.

“I’ve just been hired a few weeks ago,” said Annanaut. “This usually takes a year and Baker Lake basically did it in less than a week. It would have never happened if it wasn’t for everyone pitching in. The arena crew has been phenomenal. It’s been amazing. I’ve never seen it like that, the sense of camaraderie.”

He thanked the sponsors in town for contributing at the last second too.

“Even Agnico, they sponsored us, they gave us a few thousand dollars, even though they had like one day’s notice,” chuckled Annanaut.

Arctic Fuel and Aviation Fuel were the same – donating gas and drums as prizes and for use in the games. Annanaut was short a caribou for the community feast, so a cook stepped up and provided one.

“Even Calm Air gives us two system-wide tickets at the last minute,” said Annanaut. “It’s been amazing. I don’t know, I’m really quite astonished on how close-knit this town really is, how they help each other, how they support each other.”

The list goes on.

“The Co-op gave us such a big discount,” said Annanaut, adding that they provided an Arctic Oven tent prize as well. “We were able to feed the community almost every day, even just with snacks. I’m just so grateful for everyone to be pitching it and helping out.”

The games kicked off with traditional dressing contests Monday, May 2, before moving into games on the ice.

One game saw participants assembling a sled together, which was then donated to the local search and rescue.

Many staples took place – dice games, charades, hammer and nail, dances, piggyback races – plus some unusual ones, like driving a snowmobile pulling a sled with a 45-gallon drum and a can of pop on top. If the pop can blew off, participants had to stop and put it back on.

“It was funny to watch, all these people getting mad,” said Annanaut.

On Friday, he teamed with mental health workers in the community to organize a mental health awareness walk and related activities for youth.

When Elders had a chance to gather, play and feast, it was just them. And after years of pandemic restrictions, some tears of joy were shed.

“It was just the Elders,” said Annanaut. “No public was around, no adults, no children.”

Wednesday saw games for the special needs children in town, which the Northern Store provided meat, fruit and vegetable trays for at the very last minute.

“I find it very moving,” said Annanaut. “I love Baker, and I love the people. This would have never happened if it wasn’t for them. I know there’s been mistakes, oh I’ve made mistakes.”

But he always muddled through and was continually shocked by the support he found in the community.

Annanaut was particularly frazzled on the last day of games dealing with a cancelled fishing derby. The mild weather – the warmest he’s seen it as long as he’s lived in Baker Lake – made for terrible conditions.

“And then today was a fiasco,” he said Saturday, May 7. “We tried to have a fishing derby but nothing went right. There’s freezing rain, nothing’s going right. But we’ll make it happen, we’ll figure it out. We always do.”

He couldn’t say enough about the teamwork he saw over the week of Hamlet Days, from community leadership to businesses and individuals, adding that Dody Qiyuk, community wellness coordinator, was instrumental in helping with the events with her wellness program.

Women dress up as men to a full audience during the Hamlet Days games in Baker Lake. Photo courtesy of Gwen Arnasungaaq
Participants and audience members gather to take in the pop can tail race on the ice. Photo courtesy of Kuluk Tookoome