Sleds, dogs, booties coming to downtown

Sleds%2C+dogs%2C+booties+coming+to+downtown

Noah Hausmann

Teams will hit the trails and spectators will gather Friday, Feb. 17 for the 28th annual U.P. 200 sled dog race and the Midnight Run at the kickoff event on Washington Street in downtown Marquette.

With 12-dog teams, the first U.P. 200 mushers will start at 7 p.m. Friday, travel 230 miles of challenging terrain from Marquette to Grand Marais and back again. Mushers will face hills, creek crossings, deep snow and isolation in Upper Peninsula wilderness, testing their teams’ skills and stamina. Their first stop will be 60 miles out in Wetmore for a mandatory 5-hour rest period.

Saturday morning they’ll continue on to the halfway point in Grand Marais and journey back to Marquette for the finish line at Lower Harbor Park, returning from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19.

Beginning their departure 30 minutes after the last U.P. 200 sled leaves the chute and no earlier than 8:30 p.m., the 8-dog team Midnight Run racers will travel about 45 miles, to a checkpoint in Chatham, where they will complete a mandatory 5.5-hour break. They will finish in Marquette at the Lower Harbor Park on Saturday morning with the first teams returning at about 8:30 a.m., having traveled a total distance of 90 miles.

On Saturday, the 6-dog team 26-mile Jack Pine Race begins at 10 a.m. at Larry’s Family Foods in Gwinn, with the finish line at First Baptist Church in Gwinn and the awards ceremony estimated to begin at 2 p.m.

The public can go to checkpoints and see the sled teams. A number of local organizations will sponsor warming tents and parties this weekend. NMU will host one of the warming tents at the Friday kickoff. Open from 6 to 9 p.m., the tent will be on the corner of Washington and Fourth streets in the Upper Peninsula Health Plan parking lot by the starting line. It is a free family-friendly gathering place for the general public.

The tent will offer hot chocolate and cookies from Babycakes Muffin Co. and the opportunity to meet retired husky sled dogs, Brianna and Miki. During the “half-time” between the U.P. 200 and Midnight Run race starts, visitors will be able to pose for a photo with the dogs and a sled.

This is the third year Northern has provided a warming tent as an outreach to the community, sponsored by Alumni Association.

“It always puts smiles on people’s faces,” said Derek Hall, NMU assistant vice president of marketing and communications.

Hall is impressed by the students and community members who show their support every year for the events.

“The street is filled,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing to see all the people come out and cheer on the racers.”

For a full schedule of this year’s sled race events, visit up200.org.