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Can-Am brings back popular ‘Meet the Mushers’ event

FORT KENT, Maine —  Fans of the Can-Am Crown sled dog races will have an opportunity to meet with their favorite mushers this year at the China Garden in Fort Kent on the evening of Thursday, March 2, 2017.

“That’s an open night. The mushers are gonna be there; if people would want to talk to them and greet them they can do that,” said Can-Am 2017 Board President Dennis Cyr. “We used to do that 10 or 15 years ago when Dubois restaurant was in business way back in the beginning. It just gave some of the local people a chance to meet the mushers and stuff. It used to be very popular.”

Among the 48 mushers registered to compete in this year’s event is defending Can-Am 250 champion Martin Massicotte of St.-Tite, Quebec, who has won that race seven times.

“What I like most about dog sledding is being out in nature, discover new territories and especially to listen to my dogs and see that we are a great team of man and beasts,” Massicotte wrote on his Can-Am profile.

His son, 15-year-old Etienne Massicotte will compete in the Can-Am 30 for the first time this year. Competing against Etienne will be Maxime Leclerc-Gingras, 48, a dog trainer and kennel owner out of Quebec.

Martin Massicotte of St.-Tite,Quebec, was all smiles with his lead dogs Magic and Amick after claiming their seventh Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race victory early Monday morning. Massicotte and his team crossed the Fort Kent finish line at Lonesome Pine Ski Trails at 5:45 a.m. Monday, completing the 250-mile race with a run time of 28:57:47.  (BDN photo | Julia Bayly)

Martin Massicotte of St.-Tite,Quebec, was all smiles with his lead dogs Magic and Amick after claiming their seventh Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race victory early Monday morning. Massicotte and his team crossed the Fort Kent finish line at Lonesome Pine Ski Trails at 5:45 a.m. Monday, completing the 250-mile race with a run time of 28:57:47. (BDN photo | Julia Bayly)

“He is super excited to be joining the Can-Am Crown 30-mile race for his first competitive event ever,” reads Leclerc-Gingras’ profile.

Madawaska’s Amy Dionne returns to compete in the 250-mile event, as will Becki Tucker of Dorchester, New Hampshire. In her profile, Tucker described dog sledding as “what keeps the fire in my soul.”

“What makes me appreciate and love life are my dogs and that is why the Can-Am 250 is our favorite race. It’s all about the care, love and bond that you have with each and everyone on the trail and off the trail,” Tucker wrote.

Fans will also have a chance to meet many who would arguably say are the true stars of the race, the dogs themselves, during veterinary checks on Friday morning at Lonesome Pine Trails. Volunteer veterinarians from all over the country travel to the Can-Am each year to examine the dogs and ensure they are healthy enough to compete in the races.

Dick and Joanne Fortin have been hosting veterinarians at their Fort Kent home for 20 years.

“It’s just a great way to support the event. We have the space and we know that the vet team works really hard so we want to make sure they have a place to come to rest and to have a good hot meal,” Joanne Fortin said.

This year the Fortins will host 11 veterinarians. “They love to do this. They volunteer to do this,” Joanne said. “Some travel quite a long way to be here.”

The races will begin on Saturday with the 100-mile race 8 a.m. on Main Street in Fort Kent, followed by the start of the 30-mile event at 9:10 a.m. Competitors in the 250-mile competition will take off at 10:20 a.m.

Chair Cyr, a former Can-Am competitor, said trail conditions should be ideal for this year’s race.

“Everything is very good. I was out on the trails yesterday and it’s gonna be perfect conditions. It’s gonna be hard and fast. We have plenty of snow; we only lost about 6 inches of snow from the snowpack over the (warm) weather last week,” he said. “It  should be a good fast course.If we can get one or two inches of snow on top of this it will be perfect.”  

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