MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The show must go on. That was the sentiment felt throughout the UP200 Powered by NMU, Midnight Run and Jack Pine 30 community on Thursday night. What would have been a banquet and ceremony for mushers, volunteers, and supporters, instead was a celebration of all the hard work, ingenuity, and determination by everyone involved with the sled dog races, which this year will be called Festival of the Sled Dog Powered by NMU, a community celebration in downtown Marquette. Race official Ross Anthony says the quick pivot from a competitive dog sled race to a family-friendly festival was nothing short of a miracle.
“We basically said we can’t disappear,” said Anthony. “You know, there’s no way that we can just disappear. This means too much to the community. There are businesses, there are people coming to town, and there’s too much going on to just say the race is canceled and go on with our weekend. At that point, we basically decided that the show must go on, we’re going to find a way to do it.”
According to lead veterinarian Jean Wilcox, the track had become hazardous to the dogs.
“The trails are in such horrible shape,” said Wilcox. “And as of that, I know how depleted these dogs can get because they want to go go, go, go. If they have poor running conditions, we end up treating them. For the dog’s sake, the musher’s sake, and even the volunteers getting in and out of places they have to be. It’s not safe this year.”
Although there was disappointment over the cancelation of the race, the excitement over the replacement event and the understanding of the community was simply amazing, according to Anthony.
“We’ve always talked about the community coming together and this sled dog race being a community event and it’s for the community,” said Anthony. “It’s for the people in this town, in Grand Marais and Wetmore and all throughout the race trail, but to actually see it can happen in motion in a more intense way than we typically would be so it’s pretty emotional to see that.”
Festival of the Sled Dog Powered by NMU will take place in downtown Marquette Friday evening, and although not pulling a sled many dog teams will be on hand, as well as food vendors, local bands, and a sledding hill.