Go: CopperDog starts

Warm weather wipes out Stage 1 segment

Katrice Perkins/Daily Mining Gazette Volunteers prepare the dogs before musher Frank Moe of Grand Marais, Minnesota, takes off on Stage 1 of the CopperDog 150 race, which due to warm weather melted the snow on one trail section, causing officials to alter the route and shorten the stage by more than 5 miles.

CALUMET — The CopperDog 150 started off with a bang. The 17 mushers took off at 7 p.m. Friday evening.

Volunteers, families and townspeople from all over lined Fifth Street in Calumet to see them off.

Announcers made notice to thank the hundreds of volunteers, saying, “We couldn’t do this without you.”

George Kraft of central Wisconsin, whose daughter is a student at Michigan Technological University, said she invited him to come with her to watch the start of the race, which continues on Saturday and concludes back in Calumet on Sunday.

Kraft said “It’s a spectacle I’ve never seen before.”

He was looking forward to seeing the excited dogs and mushers.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

The warm weather created snow coverage issues on a major portion of the Stage 1 race route forcing race officials to reroute the race and making Stage 1 5.1 miles shorter.

More than 350 dogs are expected to race throughout the weekend. The CopperDog 150 features up to 30 teams of ten sled dogs and covers 150 miles in three days; the CopperDog 80 features up to 15 teams of six dogs and covers approximately eighty miles in two days. While many mushers come from the Midwest, races regularly feature mushers from several Canadian provinces and from as far away as South Africa. The Doghouse Races find teams of humans pulling doghouses on sleds. All races award cash prizes.

What sets the CopperDog apart from other races is the immense community involvement and activities surrounding the races.

“The CopperDog race organization is like a big extended family,” said Brad King, CopperDog board chairman. “Over the past nine years some people have stepped away from day-to-day roles while new people have stepped in. But everyone stays involved at some level, and we know we can always count on them when we need them. It takes the entire community to put on an event as large as CopperDog.”

The weekend features events for people of all ages, including a block party, fireworks, kids’ sled dog rides, a bonfire, a Wolverines hockey game, food and music, in addition to the sled dog races — the CopperDog 80 and the CopperDog 150.

The popular fifth annual Doghouse Races, which take place Saturday, are open to children in grades 5-12, as well as adults.

The CopperDog’s success depends on the strong support of its volunteers and sponsors. More than 105 sponsors and 400 volunteers come together each winter to put on the “Super Bowl Weekend of the Keweenaw.” As a non-profit organization, CopperDog, Inc. also focuses on the enrichment, development, and vitality of local communities, natural resources and trails, educational opportunities, and activities that encourage national recognition for the Copper Country region.