UP 200 – Array of events offered

MARQUETTE — The U.P. 200 isn’t just for mushers and sled dog enthusiasts, it’s a community event for all people.

The annual sled dog races combine the sport of mushing with the arts, local youth, silent auctions and raffles, bonfires and more fun.

The six days of events kick off today with the the sale of U.P. 200 merchandise and a silent auction at the Holiday Inn of Marquette. The sale will run through noon on Monday, giving visitors and locals alike opportunities to participate in the silent auction, pick up merchandise like hoodies, hats and souvenirs, as well as learn a little bit more about the race.

On Thursday, interested parties can join the mushers at the Holiday Inn for the Pre Race Banquet and Bib Draw, which determines their starting position or the order they will leave the chute.

Meet the mushers and their dogs during the Pre Race Vet Check at 9 a.m. Friday in the Riverside Auto parking lot, now located at 3330 U.S. Highway 41 West in Marquette.

The race festivities really pick up Friday evening in downtown Marquette.

From 5:15 to 6:15 p.m., join the crowd between Fourth and Sixth streets for the Dog-Tail Gate Gathering and view the dog trucks, dogs and mushers as they gear up for the big race.

At 6:30 p.m., the opening ceremony for the 31st running of the U.P. 200 will take place downtown, and all are encouraged to come out for the celebration, said Katie Rosebrugh, coordinator for the Wetmore checkpoint.

“The dogs are excited, they are barking, the mushers are ready to go. Downtown Marquette is packed with people with viewing tents and it’s phenomenal in a way to see everything come together and you see these dogs go: ‘We’re racing, let’s go,'” Rosebrugh said.

While you’re downtown Friday night, stop into The Nature Conservancy’s office along Front Street to warm up with cocoa and cookies from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Spectators can also visit the patio of Iron Bay Restaurant & Drinkery from 5 to 9 p.m. for a warm place to view the start of the race. Hot dogs and brats will be served on the patio as well as bar service inside.

At 7 p.m. Friday, U.P. 200 mushers take off from the downtown starting line for the two-day race.

The Midnight Run, a 94-mile race, begins just 30 minutes after the last U.P. 200 musher has left the chute.

Those looking to view the race from a different vantage point can visit the Michigan Department of Transportation Marquette Welcome Center along M-28, east of downtown, to see the mushers and their dogs as they race through the area. This viewing party will begin at 6 p.m. and cookies, pizza and hot coffee will be provided.

The first stopping of the mushers and their teams will be at the Wetmore Checkpoint at Timber Products. Once the teams have reached Wetmore, they are required to take a five-hour layover, organizers said.

“Wetmore Checkpoint is unfortunately closed to the public, so dogs can get the most potential for rest. But that said, we do have the M-28 road crossing — which is in the parking lot of Modern Woodsmith and is hosted by Hiawatha Log Homes — where the public can come out and see the dogs in action as they cross the highway,” Rosebrugh said.

S’mores will be provided at the M-28 crossing.

On Saturday, spend all day in Grand Marais as mushers reach this checkpoint in the late morning and early afternoon.

“Grand Marais is open to the public, so they can actually see the dogs bedding down and they can see the dogs arrive, see their handlers get them into their chutes. see the dogs eat, if they’re interested in that. And then they can have a delicious lunch in downtown Grand Marais,” Rosebrugh said. “They have a raffle and silent auction in Grand Marais as well.”

Breakfast will be served in Grand Marais from 8 to 11 a.m., lunch will be available all day and a pie sale will take place throughout the event. U.P. 200 merchandise and a multi-item raffle will also be available.

From 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, stop by the Marquette Arts and Culture Center, located in the lower level of the Peter White Public Library, to check out the third annual Dog Dayz of Winter Art Show, hosted by the MACC and Lake Superior Art Association.

The show features dog sledding and winter-themed art work by local children grades K-8. The show will remain on display in the MACC through February.

On Sunday, cheer on the mushers as they complete their 238-mile race by crossing the finish line in Mattson Lower Harbor Park. Check the Spot Tracker to see when racers will be coming in.

The public is also welcome to attend the U.P. 200 Awards Breakfast at the Holiday Inn at 8 a.m. Monday, which concludes the U.P. 200 festivities.

Another way the public can get involved with the U.P. 200 and other events and races that take place over the weekend is by volunteering, Rosebrugh said. Though registration may be full for this year, those interested may be put on a standby list in case of last-minute drops. She encouraged the community to even consider volunteering for next year’s races.

“That counts as an event for me, because it’s a different perspective on the event. And being able to develop bonds, work within the community and volunteer with an Iditarod qualifying race is definitely a conversation piece,” Rosebrugh said.

Register to volunteer at www.UP200.org/volunteers. For a full list of events visit www.UP200.org /schedule.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.