Beargrease Marathon Kicks Off with Opening Ceremony

Mushers and Fans Eat and Share Memories

DULUTH, Minn.- The cold and snow is good news for one crowd: the mushers and dogs in the 2019 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, running from Sunday at noon, to Tuesday 1/29 in the afternoon.

As they prepare for their long treks, they celebrated with an opening ceremony at Lake Superior College.

A huge crowd came out in support of the mushers, sharing not only a nice hot meal, but plenty of stories from Beargreases past.

A rich history, culminating in 300 miles of paw and snow.

“May the spirit of John Beargrease guide you swiftly, and safely, in your journey.”

The words of Beargrease’s eulogy echo through the cafeteria, timelessly ringing in the start of a new run.

Hundreds packed the cafeteria of Lake Superior College.

A huge family, united in spirit.

“So the Beargrease has been running for 35 years,” said Monica Hendrickson, Marketing and Outreach Consultant for the Marathon. “And really what spurs the traditions and what keeps us grounded is the spirit of John Beargrease.”

“The race was named after John Beargrease, and it’s all to honor him, honor the Northland, honor the spirit of the North Shore.”

She advises that spectators use the shuttles provided by the marathon, which run from UMD to Billy’s Bar, and back.

They are free, they just ask that you give a couple bucks to the drivers, if you have it.

A poem read by Beargrease’s Great Grandson, captures what mushers see on the trails: the powerful beauty of nature.

“And may my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.”

It’s all business after that opening.

Mushers eat up and have a good time before they take to the trail tomorrow, which they, and their teams, have been waiting for all year.

“When you’re out there on the trail with your best friends your dogs, and it’s quiet and there’s nobody else out there but you and starlight, it just doesn’t get any better than that,” said Musher Rep, Vice President of the Board, and Musher himself, Frank Moe.

Contrary to what you may think, the objective isn’t always go, go, go.

The dogs have to get used to their surroundings, and their conditions, before getting competitive.

“You gotta do your best just to keep your dogs together, happy, and healthy, and get them to the next checkpoint,” Moe said. “Come towards the end of the race, Monday night–Tuesday morning, then you see where you’re at, see where you’re at in the race.”

“Then you can start racing.”

Might seem crazy and harrowing for some, but for these snowbirds and their canine companions, it’s the ride of a lifetime.

“Come July, when I’m out working, all I’m thinking about is being out here on the Beargrease trail,” said Moe.

“It gets in your heart and your soul. And you just gotta come back.”

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