King Pharmaceuticals, Bristol, Tenn., knows how to treat its incentive winners like gold. In June, as part of its President's Club Alaskan cruise on the Carnival Spirit, the group disembarked in Skagway for their awards ceremony. The 125 winners and their guests boarded a narrow-gauge steam train for a 40-mile trip along the White Pass Trail, crossing the international border into Yukon, Canada. This Great Gold Rush route ends at Lake Bennett, a now-deserted station accessible only by rail, floatplane, or on foot.
The setting is exquisite: a basin-like valley with a jewel-like lake — with winter ice melted off of it just days before — surrounded by snow-covered peaks and home to a sturdy little wood-framed train station. A big, white tent was set up for the awards banquet, where guests were served such local delicacies as Alaskan halibut and roast loin of caribou and, among the desserts, chocolate “gold nugget” truffles.
The award presentations were punctuated by speeches by Larry Bagnell, the Yukon's sole representative in Parliament, who flew in on a red float plane, buzzing the tent a couple of times before landing and taxiing to its loading dock, where red-coated Royal Canadian Mounted Police waited to escort him to the podium. Carcross/Tagish First Nation Chief Mark Wedge spoke to the winners about the American Indian concept of reciprocity, and Indian dancers in bright red regalia led the group in a prayer of thanks to Mother Earth, followed by a drumming and chanting performance of their national anthem. The final speaker was Martin Buser, four-time Iditarod winner, who arrived via dogsled, pulled by a team of dogs that he raises on his Yukon ranch. Inside the sled, to the delight of all, were six $10,000-a-pop pups (the going price for these champion dogs). He later posed for photos and signed autographs, making for a memorable take-away.
Pennsylvania-based Harith Productions planned the event, working with Anchorage-based Chef Mark Linden of Am Chef … Will Travel for the awards banquet, and Char McClelland ofAlaska Destination Specialists.