While most people are waiting for spring to hurry up and arrive, the people in a small town of Idaho are watching the skies and hoping for snow, especially between February 16th and 18th. These are the dates of their annual american dog derby. This year is important because it is the 100th anniversary of the mushing race that attracts dog teams and visitors throughout the United States.

Sled dogs started from necessity

Ashton is a small town in eastern Idaho that is nestled in by the Teton mountains.

When it originated in 1906 it was because of the Union Pacific railroad. The area got so much snow that the train couldn’t get through in the winter, so people came from miles around to get their supplies from the train, and they did it with sleds pulled by their faithful dogs.

The first derby was held in 1917, and ran from Montana to Ashton. There were 5 participants who ran their sleds and dogs for the 55-mile trek. The race continued to gain popularity and became a sport held in the Ashton area only.

Trains brought many people in to either participate or watch all the activities. Now, 100 years later, the sport is still thriving, all because of the snow that the area of Ashton, Idaho gets...usually.

Organizers do snow dance and pray for snow

The event that starts on Main street needs lots of snow for the dogs to pull the sleds safely. The warm weather Mother Nature has given us off and on this winter is not helping, so one organizer has turned to doing a snow dance, and to praying for snow and colder temperatures.

John Scafe has been helping to organize the american dog Derby for 30 years. He does whatever he can to make it a successful winter sport. This year, he told The Standard Journal that he is turning to a higher power and doing snow dances, and asking everyone to pray for snow. Scafe said everyone keeps telling him to quit the snow dancing, but they need it to run mush dogs, so he keeps on.

The temperatures have been in the mid 30’s in the Ashton area, the snow is wet and sloppy, and these conditions can injure the dogs and cause them to overheat.

Even though about 15 teams have already pre-registered for the event, most will not run their dogs if they anticipate any conditions that will harm their sled dogs.

The dog derby is on, with some rearranging

On February 13th, an update was posted on the American Dog Derby site stating that, “Due to weather and track conditions, we will not be running the Ray Gordon or Tud Kent races. We will be adding the 10 and 12 dog teams as a different class to the 45 mile Cordingly race. We will make the final determination on Thursday evening at the musher meeting.”

A lot of other activities are part of this 3-day celebration.

Visitors can expect to taste some delicious soup, attend a dance, let their kids try snowshoeing, and even bring their dogs for what is called a “Mutt Race,” where the family dog can pull a sled and race other family dogs. According to the groundhog, the American Dog Derby might still get its cold, snowy, wintery weather after all.

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