Weekend of sled dog racing, events ready to launch

It’s February, which means the U.P. 200 is just about to begin — and we’ve come a long way since that bitter Friday night in 1990 that started it all.

The U.P. 200 Headquarters at the Holiday Inn in Marquette officially opened Wednesday morning. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 19 teams signed up for the U.P. 200, and 22 teams signed up for the Midnight Run.

Today, the opening ceremony for the U.P. 200 and Midnight Run will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the U.P. 200 will start at 7 p.m. right in front of The Mining Journal’s Marquette offices.

Darlene Walch of Sands, president of the Upper Peninsula Sled Association, said the downtown start is unique.

“This community is just into it, so it’s a spectacular start,” Walch said.

We urge local residents — especially those who have never attended the races — to consider attending an event that has become a highlight of Upper Peninsula winters over the years. The weather is looking cooperative this weekend, and it’s a great, family-friendly event for all ages.

The list of this year’s U.P. 200 mushers includes six-time winner Ryan Anderson of Ray, Minnesota; two-time runner-up Nathan Schroeder of Warba, Minnesota; Martin Massicotte, of Saint-Tite, Quebec, eight-time winner of the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race and runner-up in the U.P. 200 in 2016-17; and Ward Wallin, of Two Harbors, Minnesota, who holds the record for the most U.P. 200 finishes, having raced in every event except for 1995.

“This is a very, very competitive field this year,” Walch said. “Extremely competitive.”

People can follow the dog teams’ progress online at www.up200. org where more information about the race and corresponding events can be found. In addition, spectators are welcomed to Lower Harbor on Sunday when the mushers are expected to begin filing in around noon.

The U.P. 200 awards breakfast will be held at the Holiday Inn at 8 a.m. Monday. Tickets will be available at the door for $15.