Organizers say they are disappointed after they had to pull the plug on dog races at this year’s Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival.
“It is a key event,” said Jennifer Cook, the event’s vice-chair. “But our dogs and our mushers’ safety are a priority, so we were left with no choice.”
In a statement issued last month, the festival said it is not moving ahead with this year’s World Champion Dog Races, as well as the dog races normally held during the festival.
This decision comes following consultation with The Pas Kinsmen Club – the group that helps to plan and run the races annually.
According to Cook, the Kinsmen Club starts preparing the trail months in advance, investing hundreds of hours to ready it in time.
“This year, Mother Nature has not cooperated. We haven’t seen snow. We’ve had really warm temperatures,” Cook said.
As a result, organizers couldn’t ensure the quality of the trail that racers have come to expect.
Apart from quality, safety is also an issue.
“If we can’t give them not only a top trail, but an actually safe trail for them to do the competition on, then we are just not going to move forward with it.”
In its place, the festival is offering a human dog sled race, which calls on competitors to create homemade dogsleds from recycled materials. Someone will ride in the sled, while a team of people pull it a short distance.
This is the second time in the festival’s 77-year history the dog races have had to be cancelled altogether. The last was in 2021 due to the pandemic.
Cook says all other events will go forward as per usual, although the balmy weather could alter some of the events, like trapping and snowshoe competitions. They will still go forward with modifications, Cook says, adding the warmer temperatures could be a plus for competitors and spectators, alike.
“The warmer temperatures are nice for competitors in many cases. You’re not trying to set traps in 35 below.”
The Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival takes place from Feb. 14 to 18 in The Pas.
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