Yukon Nuggets

1986 Yukon Nuggets

Expo ‘86


It was a magical time - a time during the endless Vancouver summer to showcase the sights, sounds and pleasures of the Yukon. They called it Expo '86, a six-month world fair about transportation and communications. It featured exhibits from fifty-four countries and countless corporations.

Expo '86 was opened by Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on May 2, 1986. The largest single-day attendance was a whopping 341,806 on Sunday, October 12.

As someone lucky enough to spend time on the False Creek fair grounds, I can say the Yukon Pavilion was among the most colourful and accessible. The front of the dramatic Yukon Pavilion formed an open-air theatre with a brilliant 3-D northern sky backdrop designed by famed Yukon artist Ted Harrison and looking every bit like a colourful Harrison painting.

Mirrored panels helped capture the magical qualities of the Northern Lights. Surrounded by artefacts from the Klondike Gold Rush, the entranceway also served as a stage for entertainers.

Overhead hung a replica of the sister plane to Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. The bush plane "Queen of the Yukon", owned by aviation pioneer Clyde Wann, was a striking symbol of the role played by aircraft in opening up the Yukon.

Inside, the Yukon's transportation story unfolded. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 came alive with the tales of the men and women who laboured to locate the gold in the valley of Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks. Visitors could pan for gold nuggets and, as I did, obtain a passport to take part in the Great Yukon Treasure hunt of 1986. Nope, I did not find the treasure, but that's another story.

Exhibits also showed the awesome story of building the Alaska Highway. The pavilion's main attraction was a stunning eighteen projector audio-visual show. From the ice-covered peaks of Kluane National Park to the wilderness of Dempster Highway, the Yukon's history and natural splendours unfolded to the delight of countless thousands of potential Yukon visitors.

The Yukon's native culture and history was highlighted through ancient artefacts from Old Crow. Also on display were traditional and modern dog sleds, including high-tech, long-distance racing sleds.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.