Some of the best dryland sled dog racers in the Midwest will gather at the MaKaJaWan Boy Scout Camp in Pearson this weekend for the eigth annual Dirty Dog Dryland Derby.
Organizers and racers alike are striving for a repeat of the successful 2012 outing for the event, which is sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association. Last year’s race won four honors as the Event of the Year by the Wisconsin Trailblazers Sled Dog Club for exemplary organization and implementation.
“It would not be possible for us to earn outstanding recognition without the help of many people,” co-site organizer Beth Castaldi said. “A primary contributor is the MaKaJaWan Boy Scout camp, an outstanding location for the race. With their cooperation and assistance we are able to offer the racers an ideal staging area and race trail.”
The 2013 Dirty Dog has already earned a special compliment by being named as an International Federation of Sleddog Sports accredited event. Accreditation means drivers wishing to earn a position on the team representing the USA at the World Championship may do so in Pearson.
Top placing racers at the Dirty Dog are looking for repeat performance of their teams. Steve Wilcenski of Bryant will field two teams this year in the 4-dog and 6-dog rig classes.
“The weather has been very cooperative this year for early fall conditioning of our dogs,” Wilcenski said. “Temperatures in the low 40’s with low humidity are needed for the safety of the dogs.”
Spectators will see the commonly-known winter sled pulled by dogs replaced by bikes, scooters and three wheeled rigs. There’s even a class called Canicross where the driver is running on foot wearing a hip belt attached to a dog in harness pulling them forward.
Abby Heistad from White Lake has been racing sled dog teams since she was 9 years old.
“While I enjoy riding the sled runners, I love bikjoring with the dogs,” she said. “I feel I’m a totally contributing member of the team since I can pedal to help them run faster especially up the hills.”
Racing teams come from the Midwest and beyond. In addition to Wisconsin others have signed up from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, New York and even as far away as the state of Oregon.
Several International Sled Dog Racing Association dryland medal winners from Wisconsin are entered in this year’s race. Local top placing mushers from previous years Ken Castaldi, from Elton, Rick Korb from Cadott and Jan Bootz-Dittmar, from Wausau are hoping to again be at the top of their classes.
“Anything can happen on the trail,” Bootz-Dittmar explained. “Even the slightest little problem can result in the loss of two or three positions. After two days of racing only a few seconds often separate the three or four fastest teams.”
New for this year’s Dirty Dog will be a funkiest dressed contest.
Contest organizer DeDe Wilcenski of Bryant says, “Yes, we are seriously competitive when it comes to the actual race but we also know how to have fun,” contest organizer DeDe Wilcenski of Bryant said. “Spectators will be treated to drivers wearing brightly colored crazy costumes.”
A best dressed prize will be presented on Saturday after racing is over.
“One of the best things about the Dirty Dog is because the race lengths are short and teams very fast spectators have the opportunity to visit in the dog truck parking area where they can meet the dogs and ask questions of the racers,” co-organizer Donna Koepp of Oconto Falls said. “It’s a great way to meet and learn about outstanding canine athletes.”
Race organizers the Wisconsin Trailblazers and the Langlade County Sled Dog clubs believe in giving back to the community.
“Each year we choose a charity to support,” Amy Cooper from LaCrosse, the third member of the Dirt Dog committee, said. “This year we will be making a donation from each entry toward the local American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. We also collect cans for the Langlade County Humane Society and donate to the Boy Scouts.”
Ron Behm from Gleason, Race Marshal and President of the Wisconsin Trailblazers, invites everyone to come to Pearson for a wonderful outdoor adventure.
“If you have never experienced the excitement of racing dogs this is a terrific event to attend,” he said. “Home cooked food service is available. Parking is free and there is no admittance fee. Bring your family and enjoy a few hours in the great outdoors.”