FORT KENT, Maine — Eighty-three mushers have signed up for the 19th running of the Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race, which is still four months away in this northern Maine town.
Twenty-six of the teams are from Maine, a far cry from the three teams entered in the first running in 1993. The only race without its quota of 30 teams is the 250-mile-long classic. Seven slots are left in that race. The 30-mile race already has a waiting list of hopefuls.
Included is one team from New Zealand. New England has 47 teams in the competition and Canada has 19 teams. The Quebec contingent has the largest number of competitors after Maine with 10.
The race will be held the weekend of March 4 with the Main Street start scheduled for Saturday, March 5. Registrations were accepted starting Aug. 1 for all three races. The bib number drawing took place at a meeting of the Can-Am Crown board of directors on Aug. 22.
Irving Woodlands, the Willard Jalbert Jr. Family and Pepsi-Cola again have agreed to sponsor the 250-, 60- and 30-mile races. The total purse for the races is $40,000.
The Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race at Fort Kent is the most demanding and longest sled dog race in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It is a qualifier for the famed 1,100-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest. It is considered one of the hardest tests of humans and dogs in the sled dog race circuit. Simply finishing the 250-mile trail is considered a great accomplishment.
“The sponsors continue to support the race, and the board of directors has been hard at work since the end of the 2010 race,” said Rita Cannan, who again has taken the helm as president of the board of directors for the race.
“The 19th annual running will showcase northern Maine and Fort Kent as a winter destination where people can have fun no matter what the weather is,” said Cannan.
Mushers will race through the challenging route from Fort Kent to Portage Lake, then west to isolated checkpoints in the northern Maine forests, then north to Allagash and back to Fort Kent in a loop that traverses varied terrain including forests, brooks, lakes, open fields, populated areas and demanding hills and mountains.
Founded on Oct. 16, 1992, to establish a middistance sled dog race to serve a community of mushers throughout the snow belt and to enhance the area’s image as a winter destination point, the annual 250-mile classic on the first weekend of March has become a major event for Aroostook County. Shorter 60-mile and 30-mile races were established in 1994 and 1997 to create starter races for fledgling mushers working their ways up to the 250-mile classic. Thirty teams are allowed annually to compete in each of the races.
For information call Rita Cannan at 444-5439 or Beurmond J. Banville, publicity director, at 543-7515 or 557-0755.