Inside the John Beargrease Opening Ceremony

The ceremony brings together everyone involved in the marathon, one last time before the race.

TWO HARBORS, Minn.- Preparations for the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog marathon took place in Two Harbors Saturday.

Saturday night’s opening ceremony sheds light on how many volunteers, sponsors, and participants it takes to make this tradition going for years to come.

“Let people know that they’re involved in this race and if you ever sit down and listen to a couple mushers talk it’s just great,” Board of Directors President/ John Beargrease’s great grandson Mike Keystone said.

Saturday night the opening ceremony brings everyone involved together. Getting up to this night takes a lot of hard work from many people and sponsors.

“Things like the silent auction; where people can get some cool stuff, get a deal, but still have some funds go to the Beargrease, it’s a win, win.” Beargrease Marathon Vice President Jason Price said.

Putting on the John Beargrease Marathon costs nearly $80,000, but the bill would be substantially larger without the help of volunteers. Individuals taking part in organizing and working check points play a large role in ensuring racers safety.

“Who’s going to convey the information, the next musher can take it to the next check point but what’s going to happen from that point or the next road crossing,” head control supervisor Hamm Radio Gordon Hanson said. “So it’s extremely important that we provide that health and welfare capability.”

The marathon runs through many areas without cell service. Volunteers with Hamm radio are stationed along the trail to clock times, but first and foremost for emergency situations. Past volunteers say years when the weather is warmer, sled dogs tend to stop more.

“Because we have the GPS trackers on them, we’ll know if they have been parked for two hours, not at a check point,” Hanson said. “We send a snowmobile out, to check on them, that’s health and wellness.”

This commitment to helping sled dogs and racers is essential in keeping the tradition alive.

“I think it’s a point of pride for us that we’ve kept this going for as long as we have,” Price said. “Without all these hundreds of volunteers each year, this would not be possible.”


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