CALUMET - CopperDog 150 Friday night race starts have been one of the biggest events on Calumet's calendar ever since the race began, with thousands descending on the Fifth St. snow road to watch mushers and sleds take off for the trail. Sunday's finish has drawn impressive crowds as well.
But the Saturday in between has often been slow, with the snow road blocking auto access to businesses and the race itself bringing most of the excitement north to Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor.
So this year, CopperDog organizers are bringing in a new race to liven things up and make use of the snow road, the Dog Days of Calumet Doghouse Race, an event where teams of people take to harness and pull the doghouse over the course.
Children compete in a snowshoe race as part of CopperDog 150’s weekend activities in Calumet in 2013. Organizers are adding the Dog Days of Calumet Doghouse Race, during which teams of people pull a doghouse over a course, to this year’s schedule of events.
CopperDog's Heather Mikkola, who is organizing the Doghouse Race, said goals for the Dog Days events include finding ways to utilize the snow road and providing events for families that can't make it all the way up the Keweenaw.
"We want to have a fun-filled weekend for the whole family, which starts Friday night and goes right through Sunday afternoon," Mikkola said.
CopperDog Assistant Race Director Kim Pici, who's been involved in organizing Saturday activities for a few years, said paying back shopkeepers who put up with the snow road is also part of the plan.
"We want to do justice to the local businesses," Pici said. "Once the race starts, we inconvenience a lot of them."
Mikkola said CopperDog is still accepting entries for the Doghouse Race, and that it's a great event for rival organizations who'd like to face off in friendly competition.
"It's open to all ages and great for bragging rights," Mikkola said. "Boy scouts, girls scouts, fraternities, hockey teams or high schools - even local businesses, like restaurant against restaurant."
Prior to the event, teams need to build a doghouse and mount it on skis or a sled. During the race, up to eight team members will pull the doghouse, while one must ride on or in the doghouse - think Snoopy as the Red Baron.
Racing against the clock, each team will pull its doghouse up the block, participate in a bone toss that requires sinking three bones in a dog bowl before they can continue, then pull the dog house back down the block. Prizes will be awarded for the fastest doghouse and in a fan's choice category, where the crowd picks a doghouse for its creative design.
Mikkola said Dog Days organizers came up with the idea for the event while brainstorming, and she hopes it will prove as successful as events such as cardboard boat races do in the summertime.
"I'm crossing my fingers that it's going to turn into something like that," she said.
CopperDog's other Dog Days of Calumet activities include snowshoe and snow bike demos on the snow road, provided by Cross Country Sports; face painting for the kids; special CopperDog themed dishes at Calumet restaurants; and a Keweenaw Spay and Neuter Group pet adoption drive.
Also, CopperDog 40 musher and "Teacher on the Trail" race blogger Lynne Witty will be on hand with her sled dogs to answer questions and introduce fans to the dogs.
CopperDog Marketing Director and past Executive Director Todd Brassard said he's been impressed with the volunteer team working on the Saturday event, and is expecting a great time.
"What's really been needed is a team of dedicated volunteer planners to own the Saturday events and develop the Saturday activities," he said. "Heather and her co-planners are doing just that, putting their hearts into planning some great family fun on CopperDog Saturday, and the Doghouse Race will be a blast!"