Race was canceled, but work didn't stop
The decision to cancel this year's Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race is disappointing for everyone -- mushers, volunteers and all the race's fans.
But it's the right decision.
Conditions in Caribou Hills are described as "horrible," and lack of snow is just one of the horrors. Ice on the lower elevations, open water, loose debris and downed trees make it unsafe to run the popular T-200 this year. Even Kenai Peninsula mushers are staying away from the trails on which they normally train.
This year would have marked the 20th anniversary of the race, and it had been shaping up to be one of the most star-studded in race history. Twenty-eight mushers, including such well-known mushers as Martin Buser, Jeff King and Ramey Smyth and peninsula favorites Paul Gebhardt and Jon Little, were all set to participate.
Even though the race was canceled, much work still went into it. Volunteers have spent countless hours on the peninsula's premier racing event, and a volunteer appreciation banquet is still planned for them Saturday night.
There really is no way to adequately thank the volunteers who make the race happen. It is because of their dedication that the race gets bigger and better every year. Race organizers have a reputation for taking care of the mushers who participate, and that reputation keeps spreading.
It's been said before, but it bears repeating: It speaks volumes about the character of a community when so many people step up and support events like the T-200. Sled dog racing is one of the many things that make Alaska different, special. Those volunteers and sponsors who care enough about preserving this Alaska tradition are truly giving something important to the peninsula, something that can never be measured with dollar signs or hours worked. In doing so, they are a testament to what makes Alaska, and Alaskans, unique.
So, while peninsula residents won't be able to cheer the mushers on this weekend, it is fitting to give all the T-200 volunteers our heartfelt appreciation for a job well done.
We're looking forward to the T-200 in 2004. We suspect it will be the best race yet.
Peninsula Winter Games set to go
The T-200 may be off, and winter may be slow
in arriving, but the Peninsula Winter Games are still a go for this weekend.
Although the warm weather of late may have everyone thinking a better name might be Peninsula Breakup Games or Peninsula Spring Games, the games still remain a great cure for cabin fever. That might be more important than ever this year, since most residents have yet to get a good wintertime fix of snowmachining, ice skating, ice fishing or skiing.
The games offer something for every member of the family: ice sculpting, a scavenger hunt, a dog weight pull, a snowshoe softball tournament, snowboarding competition, horse sleigh rides, a kids' carnival, a Monopoly tournament, kick sled racing, sled dog racing, a Native Youth Olympics demonstration -- and much more.
The bulk of the events happen at the Soldotna Sports Center, but there are things happening all over the central peninsula that are part of the games.
A complete schedule can be found on page B-3 of today's paper. Check it out.
Arctic Winter Games visit big success
Speaking of games, in case you haven't heard,
the Kenai Peninsula could not have done a better job in rolling out the red carpet for members of the international Arctic Winter Games site selection committee earlier this month.
While some may have been skeptical of the ability to follow the almost minute-by-minute itinerary set for the committee's visit, by all accounts, the day went like clockwork.
And it couldn't have been accomplished without peninsula residents turning their enthusiasm for a great idea into lots of hard work. Community support for the games was obvious everywhere -- from the cheering crowd that welcomed the committee at Kenai Central High School to the presentations on the peninsula's plans for such details as security, food service, entertainment, spectator seating and fund-raising.
How well the day went is perhaps best reflected in a comment made by Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey toward the end of the committee's visit: "Whatever happens, we are a better place because of today."
And as members of the bid committee remarked to one another after the visit: "If somebody does a better job than they really deserve the Games."
Hats off to all those who worked so hard to make the day a success. It is evidence of what can happen when people unite behind a common goal to accomplish something for the common good.
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