Something for Everyone: CopperDog needs 500 volunteers

Photo provided by Fred Geis Copperdog volunteers watch for traffic and maintain the race trail and snow fence across the road in front of Fred Geis’s house. The snow fence helps to keep the dogsled teams from racing down the road instead of staying on the trail.

Volunteering for the Copperdog 150 is not a a one-size-fits-all activity.

“There’s actually over 500 different volunteers,” Krissy Kovachich said.

Kovachich has been volunteering with the dogsled race since it began ten years ago, and this year is serving as the volunteer director.

Volunteers can work as dog handlers, road crossing coordinators, checkpoint workers or a mix of several positions through the weekend. Each position has a time frame associated with it, allowing volunteers to move from one place to another through the weekend.

“You don’t have to be outside, either,” Kovachich said. “Cold isn’t an excuse.”

Checkpoints each have hospitality stations for mushers and other volunteers that need staff.

Volunteering offers the chance to get more involved than the average spectator, working directly with the dogs and mushers in some positions.

Other positions can take you to remote locations, at night, along the race route to see the lights on the dogsled approach through the forest, away from the crowds of the start and finish lines.

“When you see that coming through the woods and then you just hear the little swish-swish of the dogs and the sled, it’s pretty awesome,” Kovachich said.

Some volunteers also volunteer their houses for mushers, and their teams, to stay for the night during the race weekend.

Fred Geis, 80, has been volunteering at the road crossing in front of his house near Eagle Harbor since the race began, and opens his home to mushers who want to sleep somewhere outside of the town.

“Friday night, all they’re looking for is just a place to lie down,” Geis said. “Some of those guys have less than 4 to 5 hours to sleep.”

Mushers regularly arrive at the Eagle Harbor checkpoint well after midnight, and since the race restarts at 8 a.m. on Saturday, mushers and handlers have to get up early to care for the dogs, get through the morning vet check and get the dogs harnessed and into position.

In the morning, Geis makes breakfast for the mushers and other volunteers who work the crossing.

“Wonderful things happen at the crossing,” Geis said. “Everything’s pretty low-key in the house.”

People interested in volunteering can sign up at copperdog150.com, or email Kovachich at krissykovachich@copperdog150.com, so she can assist with the signup process or register groups who want to work together through the weekend.

Volunteer training takes place Feb. 23 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Calumet High School and includes an overview of all the different volunteer positions. Crossing coordinators can pick up safety equipment like high-visibility vests as well as waiver forms.

“It just feels good to be a volunteer,” Kovachich said. “It’s so nice to give back.”

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