MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – After a year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UP200, Midnight Run and Jack Pine 30 Sled Dog Races are back February 17 – 21, 2022.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Darlene Walch, President, Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association. “It took awhile to get back into the groove of things. You have a whole year off and you have to try to think about, ‘Okay, how do we do everything? How do we pull all of these pieces together?’ It is a very complex set of events as you can imagine.”

For the most part, events throughout the weekend should be pretty similar to in years past. Walch says their will be some differences for events take place indoors.

“Thursday the mushers will be arriving for their in-person final registration,” said Walch. “We normally would have a banquet that night. We are not doing that this year. Was just way too many people for the venue and it didn’t feel comfortable given the COVID situation. So, we’re issuing their bibs and sled banners from our sponsors, but we’re doing it with just the mushers and race officials only. The other differences that we have put in place are that both the awards ceremony for the Midnight Run and the awards breakfast for the UP200 will also be limited to mushers, their handlers, if they have a family member and then race officials.”

But, all three races should be the same for people coming out to spectate the events.

“It is a very exciting sport,” said Walch. “The dogs get very fired up to go. They love their jobs. So, Downtown Marquette Friday evening is of course the start of the UP200 and Midnight Run. For spectators who’ve never seen it before and want to be a little bit closer and be able to talk with the mushers a little easier, the Jack Pine 30 in Gwinn starts at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. It’s a little bit more lowkey and you can get a little bit closer. The mushers there are very friendly. The thing that’s neat about that one is it only takes about a couple of hours. So you can go to the start, hang around and see the finish all within about two to three hours.”

If you want to experience the races a different way, Walch says there are plenty of volunteer opportunities over the course of the weekend.

“We need people at road crossings,” said Walch. Especially, some of them in Alger County. They are odd hours. Some of them are late at night, some of them are very early in the morning. But, we also need people to help out with things like our information booth and merchandise. We also need a few technical people who know how to update a website and do Excel, that kind of thing. So, basically I usually say we have a spot for anybody who wants to volunteer because we can do indoors, outdoors. We operate four days a week because the mushers come in on Thursday and Friday, Saturday, Sunday are the events.”

Interested in volunteering? Click here.

To see the schedule of events, click here.