Fort Kent prepares for Can-Am Races

FORT KENT, Maine — The Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Races, held in Fort Kent, will celebrate 25 years of mushing with the upcoming March 4, 2017, races.

Three weekends of activities are on tap in Fort Kent and Clair, New Brunswick, to commemorate the quarter century of the sport in the “Little Town that could” along the Maine-New Brunswick border.  

On Saturday, Feb. 18,the Can-Am Crown’s 25th Anniversary Committee will host an evening of fun activities to commemorate all the work that has been done over the years.

The festivities will begin at 6 p.m. with a light parade from the University of Maine at Fort Kent to Lonesome Pine trails, where Norstate Federal Credit Union will sponsor hot chocolate to warm everyone. Parade marshals for the event will be Fort Kent Town Manager Donald Guimond and Clair, N.B., Mayor Pierre Michaud.

At 7 p.m., inside the Lonesome Pine Lodge, attendees may view 25 different artistic pieces during a silent auction. The winners of the auction will receive their artwork during the evening, which will include painted scenes, works of photographic art and wood carvings.

At 8 p.m., for a fee of $15, attendees will receive a 25th anniversary commemorative beer glass, with two complimentary fill-ups of eight different craft beers. A song about the Can-Am Sled Dog Races, created by Les Chanteurs Acadien, will be released. The song was created to commemorate the sport’s 25th anniversary. “Boomerang,” a local group of musicians, will perform at the lodge until 11 p.m.

During the weekend of Feb. 25, outdoor activities will hosted by Clair to assist their neighbors in Fort Kent with the annual activity. The Community Consulting Committee of the Upper Madawaska (County) will hold a Family Sledding Day Feb. 25 at the Catholic Church in Clair, from 3 to 8 p.m. The event will include music, hot chocolate and chicken stew.

The Canadian group will also be participating in the February 18 Parade at Fort Kent.

During these 25 years, an estimated 1,500 teams from all across North America’s Snow Belt have competed in the late winter activity through the hills and forests of the St. John Valley. Those mushers have brought more than 15,000 dogs to compete in the races that cover 30, 60, 100 and 250 miles by tough men, women and canine athletes. More than 100,000 fans have braved cold wintry mornings to see these fantastic teams of man and dogs compete against nature and each other for annual cash purses of $40,000.

It’s been an activity that has utilized the services of more than 12,500 volunteers and thousands of man-hours of work. The board of directors alone has had more than 250 monthly meetings to make this all work out, according to Beurmond Banville, promotions and advertising adviser for the annual race.

The annual classic started in 1992 with a very meager beginning. Locals donated $5, $10 and $20 to create the first purse for the February 1993 race that started across the street from Community High School on Pleasant Street. Nine teams competed in one 250-mile race, through a blizzard that blanched northern Maine with more than 15 inches of snow. A cold north wind also brought temperatures plummeting to more than 20 degrees below zero.

Over the years, 30-, 60- and 100-mile races were added. Three years ago the races added skijoring competitions at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center for mushers on cross country skis pulled by one or more dogs.

The annual competitions bring more than 5,000 fans to the races each year.

Members of the 25th Anniversary Committee, Karen Ouellette, Lynne Cyr and Ann Ouellette, invite everyone to the opening of the year’s celebration.

On Thursday, March 2, the China Garden Restaurant on Main Street in Fort Kent will host a “Welcome to the Races” evening for mushers and attendees.

The races start on Main Street in Fort Kent on March 4 at 8 am.


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