Finally, Mother Nature cooperates for annual Tamworth Sled Dog Races

Sunday News Correspondent
March 01. 2014 8:04PM
A musher gets his dogs ready for the start of Saturday’s 4-dog pro/sportsman-class competition. Above right, a young musher brings his team to the finish line during the 3-dog junior race Saturday morning. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

TAMWORTH - After two years of cancellations and a postponement earlier this year, the fourth time was the charm for the Tamworth Sled Dog Races which was back on track Saturday. It continues today.

Usually run at Lake Chocorua on the last weekend in January, the races are sponsored by the Tamworth Outing Club and operated by the New England Sled Dog Club. The NESDC was founded in nearby Wonalancet in 1924, thereby giving it claim to the title of being one of the oldest such clubs in the world.

In turn, the Tamworth Sled Dog Races - despite the lack of racing in both 2012 and 2013 due to poor weather conditions - has the honor of being the oldest series in the continental United States - or just about anywhere - said Steven Endres of Bradford, who is the NESDC's race manager.

Founded in 1935, the Tamworth Outing Club, according to its history, held the first Tamworth Sled Dog Races that year and, with some interruptions, has done so annually for 75 years, said Anne Chant, who is the club's president.

She said the outing club also supports a junior ski program and a baseball league in Tamworth and maintains about four miles of cross-country ski trails.

Chant said she was happy the races were held, especially since some people travelled a long way to see them. The last race is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday. Spectators can park along Route 16 and walk across to the start/finish line on Lake Chocorua.

In addition to racers from New Hampshire and New England, there were mushers from New York State and Canada.

Doug Butler of Middlebury, Vt., was accompanied by students from Middlebury College, some of whom were videotaping the "open" class where, as Endres explained, you can run "as many dogs as you got the guts to hook up."

The taping was part of a documentary.

One of the students, James Brown, originally from Piqua, Ohio, said he and a colleague have filmed Butler at the recent Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby and they hope to follow him to races in Alaska next year.

Brown added that he enjoyed all the racing, including skijoring, in which a person on skis is pulled by one or two dogs, as well as the three-dog junior; four-dog pro/sportsman; six-dog pro/sportsman; eight-dog pro; and open classes.

Cumulatively, Endres and Chant said there were 43 mushers competing this weekend, which is an average number.

The 2014 races were dedicated to the memory of Stanley B. Coville for his "55 years of making the races happen with warm prodding and for his love of this place."

Although he did not race dogs, the race program said Coville, who died last Aug. 31 at the age of 87, led a life that was "reminiscent of the perseverance of the mushers and he respected their care for their dogs and shared their love of the trail. We miss him. Almost everyone here knew Stan and will enjoy moments thinking about him."

Racing resumes on Lake Chocorua at 9 a.m. Sunday.

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