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25 years of Yellowknife

Kevin Allerston
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 15/05) - Janet Manzo will tell you yes, you can go home again.

Eighteen months ago, she had an idea: re-unite a group of Yellowknifers who were here 25 years ago. Over the weekend 17 of them, hailing from all over Canada, got together to celebrate the time they spent in the capital.

"I e-mailed people and said 'it's been 25 years, this is the summer, we've gotta do it!'" Manzo said.

The troop bonded while on a canoe trip up the Beaulieu River.

Though Manzo only spent the one year in Yellowknife, she said it was a very special time for her. She came up with a friend of hers, the pair just "two nurses fresh out of college."

"There were really good people and I knew if we got them together it would be a really good time," Manzo said. "It's just to see where people have gone in the 25 years, because we don't all keep in touch."

Manzo came up from Toronto where she works as a nurse to be at the reunion. In addition to making the calls and e-mails, Manzo made a short film about Yellowknife.

"There's something very special about the folks we met here," Manzo said, speaking of the friendliness of Yellowknifers both then and now.

Greg Stirling was missing the Calgary Stampede to be at the reunion. He first came to Yellowknife in 1971. His father was in the armed forces and was setting up the Northern region headquarters. The plan was for the family to stay for three years.

"That's the story of so many people in the North," Stirling said. "They expect to come for a year or two and 30 or 40 years later they find that they are still here."

Fly from Halifax

Adrian MacDonald came the farthest to be back in Yellowknife, spending a day to fly in from Halifax. He first came to Yellowknife from Halifax in 1978.

"I had a lot of fun here and made lots of good friends," MacDonald said. "I enjoy the outdoors and Yellowknife offers outdoor experiences in spades."

What was once wilderness is now chock-a-block with houses. "I remember Frame Lake South being a suburb out there and a smattering of commercial-industrial properties and now it's just completely built up," MacDonald said.

"It's wonderful to see them all again," he said.

Not everybody who was at the reunion left Yellowknife, though. Denis Alain came to Yellowknife 30 years ago. He agreed to have the reunion centred at his house on the shore of Great Slave Lake.

"The first thing you think is you gauge everyone to see how much they've aged," he joked.

Alain said he stayed in Yellowknife because it was a "good place to raise a family."

But the town has changed in some ways.

"Progress they call it, I suppose. As the town gets bigger you get the big chain stores, but you also get the drug problems that come with it."

"But," he added, "I still think over all, it's a pretty darned good place to raise kids."