Festival chairperson is no stranger to the cold

From winning dog sled races at the Prince Albert Winter Festival in the 60s, Franklin Carriere is now the honourary chairperson of the event for 2022. Photo submitted.

At age 76, Franklin Carriere has earned the right to spend his days sitting by the fire and warming his toes but that is not what he has planned this winter or anytime soon.

Carriere is a busy man, baiting for lynx in -38 degree weather on his trapline near Cumberland House, teaching others and most recently, being named the honourary chairperson of the Prince Albert Winter Festival.

“It was in a way a surprise because you never know. I’ve been away from competition for five years,” he said.

Carriere started racing dogs as a way to make money, competing in the festival here starting in the mid 1960s, as he was in school in the city at the time.

But in those days, it was not common to go beyond Grade 10 and so he left, missing only the algebra component of his education.

It was growing up in a time that required hunting skills to put food on the table that really taught him some life skills, he said.

“I got my university degree in survival at 14 years old. Instantly,” Carriere said, laughing. “Now, I’ve got five dogs to feed, I’ve got to feed myself and my dad is sick so I had to catch all this stuff.”

With siblings and a mother that also needed feeding, Carriere and his brother John would go out and catch rabbits and grouse to feed the family.

“We just had enough money to buy groceries and feed everybody. There was 10 of us. When you have 10 pairs of eyes looking at you and they’re all hungry. Somebody better go catch some rabbits,” he said.  

He and John were responsible for catching the meat starting around age seven and that continued until Franklin left home at 14.

At home he would run sleds with five dogs but in the racing world, they used 10 of the fastest dogs they can find, with this being another source of memories.

“I had one helluva ride, I tell you. Especially when you come over a jump and you fall down and you’re hanging on with 10 fast dogs going full speed and you have to manage to get yourself off the ground, hanging on to a rope,” Carriere said of one incident.

“I’ve seen those cowboys when they’re roping, that’s how I felt. The ground was hard and it was frozen.”

Despite the good memories, his true reasons for competing were much more pragmatic.

“It was a living because there was money in there,” Carriere said. “The world championship race was $1,000.”

He has some other accomplishments to his name as well.

In 1965 Carriere was selected to participate in the Centennial Canoe Race as a member of the Saskatchewan team. 

In 1967 the modern day “voyageurs” paddled from Rocky Mountain House to Montreal.  This was the world’s longest canoe race. 

The Saskatchewan team placed 6th overall with a time of 541 hours, 47 minutes and 41 seconds.  The race lasted from May until September and included a paddle to New York City and the Statue of Liberty. 

Franklin is retired from his job with the economic development branch of the Saskatchewan government and retired from racing about six years ago.

Even though stopped racing in 2015, Carriere still attends the festival every year as an announcer.

The committee that chooses the honourary chairperson keeps a list of potential candidates and chooses from them every year using criteria such as if they are a volunteer or a competitor or are connected to the event in some way.

“His father had competed, he’s competed and now his grandchildren are competing,” said Bev Erickson, a member of the committee. “His name has come up the last three or four years and we thought this year would be a great year to honour him.”

Carriere’s success will be celebrated on Jan. 15 at the Prince Albert Wildlife Hall at the Tux & Toques Gala. Tickets are available to Diamond North Credit Union or by emailing pawf@gmail.com. The group is planning for in-person events both at the Gala and then later for the festival itself.