MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – As the UP200, Midnight Run, and Jack Pine 30 Sled Dog Races return this weekend after being canceled in 2021, they’re set to bring an influx of visitors to the communities along the race routes. While bringing in tourism is important for local economies, Dave Lorenz of Pure Michigan says the support the events garner from local residents has been key in developing the events into what they are today.
“You know some of these events in some places really don’t bring out a lot of crowds, and they don’t bring out the local community. Maybe they only bring the visitors. In this case, what really surprised me is this great mixture of proud residents,” Lorenz said. “You know, can’t wait to get out and be part of this thing. That’s pretty cool, mixed in with visitors as well. Everybody in their fun U.P. wear. Wearing your Stormy Kromers, or your furry big hat, whatever it is, and just having a great time.”
In addition to the tourism that summer and fall seasons bring to the U.P., winter events like the UP200 are increasingly meaningful. The passion that local communities show for their traditions have become part of the draw themselves.
“The UP 200 is one of those huge events which not only supports the economy by bringing people in here, getting them to restaurants, and pubs, and hotels, and things like that. That’s a lot of spending, that brings in millions of dollars of investment into the community in a short amount of time, so it means a lot,” Lorenz said. “But what the UP200 does in a different way is it demonstrates kind of the tenacity and the roughness of people who live in the U.P. I mean these are hearty people here who are proud to showcase a part of the culture that’s really important here.”
While the start of the UP200 on Friday night draws large crowds to downtown Marquette, newcomers are recommended to look beyond the starting line celebration to find other sites and locations along the race routes.
“Take it all in. Don’t just come that Friday night and see the dogs take off. Maybe check with the locals, find out places where you can see them pass through along the trail. That’s always fun because those are like mini parties along the way as well, and there are some places that are really kind of special where you can see something like that,” Lorenz said. “But also come early, see the whole setup because, you know, you see the downtown as any downtown in the wintertime would be, and then all of a sudden a few hours later it is a snowy track, elevated because they literally truck in snow, and they get that thing set for the sled dog races pretty fast.
Each year, hundreds of workers and volunteers work together to make the races as seamless as possible for the racing teams. As the event continues to grow, the need for volunteers who pull the event together is as strong as ever.
“Every time I come to an event like this I realize how appreciative I am of the volunteers who make this happen and of the community who supports it,” Lorenz said. “Where else are you going to go in the wintertime, or sometimes when it’s bitterly cold, on a Friday night, it’s dark, it could be snowing, it could be windy, it could be super cold, and you’re going to find a parade-like atmosphere with people lined up all up and down the downtown street just to watch those sled dog teams take off? It’s pretty awesome and it really demonstrates what we are as the U.P.”