By NIKKI YOUNK
IRON RIVER - Iron River already hosts several annual summer events, such as the U.P. Championship Rodeo, Rum Rebellion Days, and the Iron County Fair.
Grace Brindle Photo
IronLine race director Josh Brindle promotes the event to local residents at the West Iron District Library.
Now, a group of local residents is aiming to add a winter event to the calendar - the IronLine Sled Dog Race.
"We want to bring Iron River out in the cold to have some fun," said race director Josh Brindle. "It'll also bring in an economic boost to the community."
The inaugural race is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 18 and Saturday, Jan. 19.
There will be two different race classes: a 10-dog professional class, which will run a 40-mile loop, and a six-dog sport class, which will run a 20-mile loop. Mushers in both classes will run their respective loops once on Friday evening and once on Saturday morning.
Brindle said that the race route was designed to be spectator-friendly.
Starting on Genesee Street in downtown Iron River, the route will follow the Apple Blossom Trail and connect to Iron County Recreational Trail 16, which passes near the George Young Recreation Complex and Chicagon Lake. The route will then loop back to downtown Iron River.
Brindle pointed out that although many sled dog races take at least two years to plan, IronLine organizers have done the work in less than a year.
"Sled dog races have done well in Calumet and Marquette, and we've learned from them," he explained. "The people who run the CopperDog in Calumet have been helping us greatly."
In fact, CopperDog executive director Todd Brassard has agreed to act as the IronLine's race mentor. Also, retired musher Lyle Ross of Michigamme will serve as race marshal.
So far, plans for the race have progressed smoothly. Organizers have already obtained permission from the county and signed up several interested mushers.
Brindle noted that one of the only remaining obstacles may be the weather.
"Races have been canceled because of lack of snow," he said. "But, we've done our homework. We looked at the climate outlook and there's a four-week window that looks good."
In addition, the IronLine is still in need of sponsors and volunteers.
Volunteer positions include:
- Snowmobilers who can lead and follow mushers to ensure safety on the trail.
- People who can monitor road crossings.
- Dog handlers who can help mushers guide their sleds to the starting line.
Brindle added that all dogs will be treated with care and attended to by head veterinarian Dr. Jeanie Wilcox of Gwinn and veterinarian Nick Vukich of Green Bay, Wis.
For more information on the race, go to www.theironline.com.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.