CALUMET - The CopperDog 150 sled dog race has grown tremendously in its first three years, and organizers have every reason to believe this year's March 1 to 3 event will be even better.
CopperDog, Inc., became its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in August 2012 after previously functioning as a subcommittee of Main Street Calumet, and since then there have been several signs that point toward a successful event this year and a sustainable event in the future.
For the 2011 race it took six months to fill the CopperDog 150 pro-class race. For the 2012 race, it took 12 days. For this year's race, when registration opened at 8 a.m. Sept. 18, it took three-and-a-half hours. The race used to be the primary responsibility of just half a dozen people, but now the organization has 12 board members, six event directors and about 20 high-level organizers, all of whom are volunteers. This year's event budget is also up to about $66,000, from last year's $60,000.
"I am extremely proud of what this organization has accomplished," said Todd Brassard, executive director of CopperDog, Inc., and race director of the CopperDog 150. "Between our board, committees and dedicated people who are taking on specialty tasks, we have the potential of being among the best events in the sport."
The response from mushers has pointed in that direction, as evidenced in part by the quick registration. The waiting list already had 10 mushers on it after just a few days.
"I've been doing this for 30 years and this is the best supported race I've ever been to, and that includes the Iditarod," Ian MacKenzie, a musher from Ontario, said after the 2012 race.
Drawing comparisons to the Iditarod is as good as it gets for a sled dog race, and this year's CopperDog will feature another intriguing connection to the world's most notable sled dog event.
Ryan Redington, whose grandfather Joe Redington is credited with starting the Iditarod, will be making the trek from Alaska to Calumet to compete in the fourth annual CopperDog 150 among other Midwest races.
"The future for CopperDog looks bright," Brassard said. "Between the organizational changes, the 150 filling to capacity in less than four hours and the Redington name on the roster, we are heading into the 2013 race with unmatched enthusiasm."
Mushers from seven different states and Canada will all descend on the Copper Country, which will make for an entertaining race, but with the low snowfall totals this winter and resulting negative impact on the local economy, the race will fill an even more important role in community vitality.
"We know it's tough out there, and the lack of snow has been devastating on many businesses, but support for the CopperDog has been simply amazing," Vice Chair of CopperDog, Inc., and Director of Fund Development Abbey Green said. "Our entire team is driving forward and working very hard to make the 2013 CopperDog 150 a brilliant beacon of hope and point of community pride during a disappointing winter season."
While the number of people involved in coordinating the event is greater than ever and so is their experience level, the CopperDog 150 pro-class race and CopperDog 40 could still not get off the ground without hundreds of volunteers. People interested in volunteering may register now at the CopperDog 150 website, copperdog150.com, which contains a wealth of regularly updated information about the event.
Organizers are also rolling out a more in-depth level of training for volunteers interested in growing their level of involvement.
"New this year is our Lead Volunteer Program. We're taking 25 to 35 dedicated volunteers and really teaching them about the mechanics of the race," Brassard said. "They are going to be our true leaders in the field this year. People can more about this program on the CopperDog website."
Check back to The Daily Mining Gazette every Saturday leading up to the race for more exclusive CopperDog 150 coverage.