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Star-studded Baker Lake festival celebrates summer

Artists from Nunavut and beyond perform for hundreds
Sleepy the Clown provides old-school style clowning for the crowd. Daniel Tapatai photo

“It was a phenomenal weekend.”

That’s how Nathan Annanaut, Recreation Director for the Hamlet of Baker Lake, described the Festival by the Lake community celebration held over the September long weekend.

“All the performers made me look really good.”

Those performers included comedian Don Burnstick, Baker Lake rapper Shauna Seeteenak, Rankin Inlet singer Brenda Montana, Iglulik singer Joshua Haulli and Winnipeg performer Sleepy the Clown.

Events got underway with speeches and a lunch set up by Agnico Eagle Mines, who also gave away 40 bikes to children in the community.

Don Burnstick was the special master of ceremonies, who also surprised the audience with a show at the opening.

“He did a masters of ceremony, talking to the people, gave a little uplifting, positive, motivational talk about alcohol abuse and violence in the home,” said Annanaut. “And then he gave us a little show after his 15 minute talk of seriousness. He gave us a good 45-minute show of comedy. We didn’t expect that. That was a great gift.”

Burnstick had only been booked to work an adult show on Sunday night, but Annanaut said when he saw the Elders and children in the audience, he wanted to make sure they got some comedy too.

After lunch, the community headed to the arena turf, set up with bouncy castles, slides and different carnival games for children. The facepainting booth was especially popular: “There were 200, 300 kids lined up for the whole day,” said Annanaut.

Annanaut wanted to bring the old style of clowning to Baker Lake — and Sleepy the Clown delivered.

“He tried to do a walkaround, but he was too popular with the kids,” said Annanaut. “We just had to sit him down on the stage. It was too chaotic, so we had to make a huge line, because all the adults and all the kids wanted to see him.”

Sleepy the Clown gave each child a balloon toy, made a joke and took a selfie.

“Everyone loved him,” said Annanaut.

To no one’s surprise, Burnstick’s two-hour adult-themed show was a weekend highlight.

“Everyone just kept rolling in the aisles laughing,” said Annanaut, estimating that as many as 700 people came out for the festival.

Musical performers kept the weekend rocking, and for Seeteenak, it was a nice welcome home.

“I was given the opportunity to perform in my hometown, and I accepted the invitation without hesitation,” said Seeteenak, a rapper from Baker Lake now signed to Hitmakerz. “It made me realize how far I’ve come, and also where I’ve come from. If it wasn’t for my town, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”

She played sets both Saturday and Sunday, each about 45 minutes long, to enthusiastic crowds.

Seeteenak had played songs on occasion in Baker Lake, but this was the first time she had performed a whole set in her hometown.

“I’m very thankful to have been invited to perform for my hometown, and I hope it won’t be the last time,” she said. “Thank you to the organizers that took the time to put this show together, as well as bringing the town together to enjoy some entertainment.”

The festival ended with a luncheon for Elders at the community wellness building on Monday, Sept. 5.

“The Elders really don’t go public, so we had to give them a Festival by the Lake as well,” said Annanaut.

He thanked the funding partners for making the event a success, including Agnico Eagle, Mayor and council, hamlet administration, Calm Air, Nunamiut Lodge, arena workers and Justice and Wellness.

Baker Lake rapper Shauna Seeteenak rocks the stage at her hometown festival. Photo courtesy of Kaytlyn Niego
Comedian Don Burnstick tears up the stage. Daniel Tapatai photo
Hundreds gather for a BBQ lunch. Daniel Tapatai photo