Sunday, February 27, 2011

Winter Games

Recently we headed over to some Winter Games. We were scheduled to set up some photography at the Saturday events. We almost didn't make it because The Fisherman had a migraine, but at the last minute - the very last minute - he thought he could make it. We scrambled to load up a smaller version of our originally intended set-up and hit the road. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm for winter. It's a good thing, too, because we were set up outside. I hear tell it was the first beautiful day in all of the nearly 10 years of the winter festival. We were one of only two merchandise vendors. The remainder of the space seemingly crowded with vendors were concessions vendors and participants in the Chili Cook-off. We enjoyed the day a great deal and had many visitors to our boothless "booth". And we even made some sales, too.

The event has two main features: the sled dog races up the mountain and the festival-like events down the hill at a casino. Saturday's events at the casino included a live band, a dog weight pulling contest, ice carving contest, dog shows (best purebred, best northern breed, owner-dog look alike contest, best mutt, best iddy-bitty dog and best "lap-dog"[70 pounds and up]). Here are some photos from Saturday's fun. Sorry about the quality - or lack thereof. It seems I need a refresher course on my camera settings, having blown out or blurred nearly all the photos. But you'll get the idea.

This guy was the winner, pulling around 650 pounds.

Not too many participants in the ice carving contest. But the local chain-saw carver, who creates bears, eagles, and other sculptures from big forest logs, was on hand. Though I didn't hear, I'm pretty sure he was the winner.  I couldn't imagine what he was making in a horizontal format.

I don't have a clue what this gargoyle like creature was but it turned out very good.

Ahaa! Two horizontal blocks of ice became a dog sled, complete with hooded musher hunkered down in back. He even stuck in blue eyes for the dog. Very nice.

The next day, The Fisherman still not feeling all that well, I went up to Day Two of the sled dog races myself. One of the founders of the races at the games is a friend of ours. His sister is also a friend of mine from Bible study. He was racing and his wife was the official time keeper. They needed the two of us Bible study gals to stand at the place where the race trail crossed a maintenance road - to keep the dogs from veering onto the road and to stop any stray vehicle that might wander along. A dozen or so Young Marines were there to help but their numbers were consumed with an especially exuberant dog team I'll show you later.

So Nancy and I drove to the spot where the trail crossed the dirt road and we waited, each of us on either side of the trail. Watching the trail curve around the trees, we waited for the sound of barking dogs at the start line to quiet down. Then we knew a team was on their way. The dogs bark with excited anticipation until they hear their musher tell them to go. Then it's all business and they're off.  Pretty soon we saw a flash of movement around the bend and here came the first team.

And the second...

Then the third, our friend, Ron.

He's getting out of mushing. Has sold or given away all of his dogs. Except for one 14 year old long-retired favorite, Snowflake. He was running a team for another musher and I was glad to be able to see him race for the first time since I've been an Iditarod fan.

This wasn't exactly like the Iditarod mind you. The largest teams run here were only 6-dog teams compared to the Iditarod's 16-dog teams that start out the race. And this race trail was only 4 miles long, not 1000.

And here comes the winning team coming in to the finish.

Eliminating some drag, the musher hunkers down to make it easier on his team to run the last stretch.

Here comes Ron, coming in for the finish.

After the race, it's chow time. "Dog trucks" are fitted with welded on eye bolts all around the truck and dogs are chained up temporarily before and after a race.

Then, it was back into the cozy shelter of their individual boxes.
 Up you go!

Here's a couple of the small sleds that were used that day. Sleds are big enough to carry any equipment needed for safety out on the trail and also large enough to carry a dog inside, should it become tired or injured. On the Iditarod trail, sled bags are often used for a musher to crawl into and catch some sleep when they stop along the way.

Believe it or not, I'm such an Iditarod nerd that I actually know the names of some of the parts of a sled. But I'll spare you the identifying of them. Feel free to just look at the pretty sled in the pretty snow and sunlight.

More tomorrow of snow, sleds, dogs and mushers.

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