Winterfest attracts bevy of participants, fans for trimmed event

Hannah Lantzer-Moses and Lauren Clark, Contributing Writers

Photo by Lauren Clark

Musher Emily Ferrans, 18, of Wexford, Pennsylvania poses with Marge after returning from the two-dog Skijoring run. Ferrans has been competing solo in sled dog events since she was 13 and has been handling teams that belong to her father since she was 6. Ferrans jumps at the chance to be a positive ambassador for her sport and loves introducing spectators to her affectionate dogs.

KALKASKA – Unfavorable weather conditions forced organizers to postpone the Kalkaska Winterfest earlier this year and cancel the festival altogether in 2017 and 2018.

With disappointing postponements and/or cancelations sullying each of the past five years, community spectators cheerfully welcomed the festival back to town on Saturday, Feb. 23. Events had been scheduled to continue Sunday, but were canceled due to ice and rain.

Known as a charming family friendly festival that benefits the local economy, the one day of festivities drew hundreds of spectators to the largest sprint sled dog event in the continental U.S. The event also featured canine weight-pull events, a craft show and community breakfast.

Sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA), the sled dog races attracted about 70 teams, according to festival organizers.

“People accumulate a lot of (ISDRA) points at our race that go towards year-end medals,” said Kristi Collins, who has been the Winterfest race group organizer for the past 12 years. “We also have a good purse and really pretty trails here in the Snow Belt region, which I think attracts a lot of people.”

Sled dog racing teams journeyed from across North America to partake in the 12 racing events. Besides Michigan, registered mushers came from Alaska, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and even Canada for the festival.

Emily Ferrans – an 18-year-old racer sponsored by Non-Stop Dogwear USA – traveled to Kalkaska’s Winterfest from Wexford, Pennsylvania. Ferrans entered the two-dog 6.6-mile skijor and two-dog 2.5-mile kick sled events with her dogs, Marge and Jayla.

“Many mushers, like myself, are competing for ISDRA and International Federation of Sled Dog Sports points for World Cup events,” said Ferrans, who finished second in the skijor event.

Due to the cancelation of Sunday race events, Ferrans explained that racers will ultimately earn less ISDRA points. However, the winning purses – advertised on entry forms as $10,000 split among winners – remains consistent, so the awards, points and money were just given based on the results from Saturday events.



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