It’s not just the volunteers making long treks to the Nordic Heritage Center. Greg Jaeger of Greg’s Photography (www.gregjaeger.com) made the trip from Midlothian, Va., to shoot his very first biathlon event.
Of course, Jaeger is no stranger to the sport or to northern Maine. The Caribou native’s second cousin is one of the Maine Winter Sports Center’s homegrown stars — Russell Currier.
“I’d really hoped to see Russ ski here,” Jaeger said Saturday morning. “But I’ll get to see him on Sunday when he comes home to visit.”
In the meantime, Jaeger was honing his biathlon photography skills.
“This is a great place to shoot biathlon,” he said after his first day photographing the sport. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s the only place to shoot.”
Jaeger, who is semiretired from the information technology field, has plenty of experience photographing skiing in Europe and the western United States, but said it does not compare to his time in Presque Isle.
“This is a great opportunity to shoot world-class athletes,” he said. “And the people here are so friendly and really helpful.”
The only problem Jaeger ran into was technical.
On Thursday the battery froze in his camera before the women’s sprint race had ended.
Getting thousands of athletes, coaches, media personnel, volunteers and spectators to and from the Nordic Heritage Center could have been a logistical nightmare.
Not in Presque Isle, where a fleet of school buses — commandeered from several central Aroostook County schools —ferried people to and from the venue all week.
“I make about 15 trips a day,” bus driver Duane Grass said Saturday afternoon as he drove from the center back to the public parking area a mile and a half away. “I drove buses when they had the junior World Cup here, and you get to meet some fabulous people.”
Because there is very limited space at the venue, biathlon organizers established the free parking area and free shuttle service.
The same system will be used when the World Cup moves to Fort Kent this week.
Most of the week Grass, a Mars Hill farmer, had been shuttling Russian, Norwegian and Swedish athletes from their hotels to the venue, but he was tapped for parking lot duty Saturday.
“I really enjoy meeting those athletes,” Grass said. “This morning the Swedish team told me how impressed they were so many school kids showed up to cheer for them.”
When he has the chance, Grass likes to talk to his passengers about Aroostook County and added the athletes are pretty interested in their host community.
“Sometimes you think professional athletes might be snobs,” Grass said. “But these are just great, friendly young people.”
Folding the tents
In a biathlonesque version of “Brigadoon,” the moment competition ended at the Nordic Heritage Center on Sunday afternoon, the range, timers, media centers, support tents and trailers were to be moved to rise again in Fort Kent in time for the World Cup competition at the 10th Mountain Center starting Thursday.
“We’re going to have 30-plus volunteers here Sunday,” Norma Landry, Fort Kent biathlon committee member, said from the Nordic Heritage Center on Saturday morning. “They are coming here to take things down and make sure they pay attention so they know where all the parts go when we put it back together.”
Targets, timers, rifle racks, shooting lane markers and everything else needed to put on a world-class event must be in place by Tuesday in time for a test race Wednesday.
“In Fort Kent on Sunday, 25 or 30 people will be there to meet us and start unloading,” Landry said.
Getting those helpers proved to be a bit of challenge in usually volunteer-happy Fort Kent, Landry said.
“I called my nephew and asked what he was doing on Sunday,” she said. “He said, ‘Tante Norm, it’s Super Bowl Sunday,’ and I said, ‘Uh-oh, this could be a problem.’”
Turned out, it took just a few extra calls to find the help she needed.
“I had no doubt people would come through,” Landry said. “And there is no doubt we will be ready in time.”
Technology good and bad
Looking around the Nordic Heritage Center, there can be little doubt about the importance placed on technology.
Giant satellite dishes mounted on trailers and trucks broadcast live video feeds to millions of European visitors.
In the media room, laptops, cell phones and televisions keep journalists connected to editors and their readers and viewers back home.
On the course, racers wear small bands containing chips that communicate with specialized electronic timers, and even the targets are wired, using computerized sensors to keep track of hits and misses during competition.
But, as at least one World Cup volunteer discovered, all that technology can come at a price.
Remember those giant satellite dishes?
Apparently they do more than broadcast video. They are also capable of tripping keyless security systems in late-model cars.
“A lot of us just toss our keys under the seat and don’t bother to lock our doors,” Norma Landry said. “I guess one of the range chiefs did that, and when he came back out his car was locked.”
Turned out, the electronic signal from the satellite dishes was the culprit.
“We are going to warn people in Fort Kent to make sure they keep their keys with them,” Landry said.