UP200 draws crowds to downtown streets

UP200+draws+crowds+to+downtown+streets

Justin Van't Hof

The snow took a brief break from blanketing the Marquette ground as hundreds of spectators gathered on Washington Street to get a glimpse of the sled dogs and their mushers. As the time clicked closer and closer to the beginning of the race, the crowd of people woo’d and chanted and rattled their noise makers as noise filled the air.

The clock struck 7 p.m. and the dogs began their journey from the starting line. Spectators of all ages looked over the trail barricades to get a glimpse or snap a picture of the dogs as they passed by. As the dogs passed in between the sea of spectators, their multicolored boots pushed down the snow, leaving marks on the trail as they disappeared into the winter night. 

The UP200 celebrated their 30th anniversary this year and drew in hundreds of visitors from all over Marquette and the US. The race began last Friday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. and finished around noon on Sunday. 

With an event full of hundreds of spectators, a group of around 1,000 volunteers ensured the entire event ran smoothly. Volunteers checked bags, helped with crowd control and did vet checks on the dogs. Some of the volunteers travelled several hundreds of miles just to assist in the race.

“It takes constant planning and work to put this event together. Once a race is over, everyone is thinking about what needs to happen [or] change for next year’s race,” said Maddie Arszulowicz, NMU student representative for Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association (UPSDA). 

NMU students volunteering with their residence halls assisted primarily in crowd control to help make sure that no one interfered with the dogs before or during the race. The Pre-Vet club helped in doing the vet checks on the dogs to make sure they were healthy for the long race. The American Marketing Association (AMA) also assisted the UPSA in doing an economic survey this year to see the economic impact of the race. One of the volunteers, NMU sophomore Haley Reynolds, volunteered to work as crowd control during the race.

“I loved being able to take part in such a cool event while also being able to help out. It was overall a great experience that I would recommend,” Reynolds said. 

Volunteers were met with a taxing task to get the trail ready this year after storms over Thanksgiving break left debris all over the trail. The UPSDA trail crew worked to put together a great trail, but there was a lot that they couldn’t get to, as it was buried under the snow. During a meeting about preparation for next year, it was discussed how important it will be to start cleaning up the trail once the snow melts, to reduce the amount of debris to be cleared next winter.

The UPSDA relies on the work from volunteers from the planning process to the race itself and offers experience in all types of places. Volunteers who want to stay away from the cold weather can help with merchandise and silent auction. They also help with contacting sponsors and organizing the banquets used to raise funds for the event. For those not scared of a little snow, assisting with the starting portion of the race offers a new perspective on the UP200.

“No matter what, you won’t regret it, and you’ll be able to see the race from an entirely different perspective,” Arszulowicz said.