Beargrease start moving closer to Two Harbors
The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is making another move for 2017. Instead of starting at the Alger Grade gravel pit about 8 miles north of Two Harbors, as it has the past two years, the race will start at 11 a.m. Jan. 29 at the Lake County F...
The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is making another move for 2017.
Instead of starting at the Alger Grade gravel pit about 8 miles north of Two Harbors, as it has the past two years, the race will start at 11 a.m. Jan. 29 at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Two Harbors.
Race organizers said they hope the location change will provide spectators a better, more accessible way to watch mushers start the race.
"That's exactly why we decided to move it down, because it will enhance the experience for Two Harbors businesses and (the) community," said Jean Vincent, president of the Beargrease board of directors. "The fairgrounds just seem to be a more consumer-friendly location, we can have some vendors there and parking will certainly be improved."
The past couple years, with the start at the gravel pit, cars were lined up for more than 2 miles along County Highway 2. Vincent said race organizers didn't receive many complaints the first year the race started at the pit, but last year comments increased.
Many people walked more than a mile just to get into the pit - which wasn't a problem for most people because the weather was unseasonably warm and conditions on the roads were very good. But the race does start in January in northern Minnesota, and counting on temperatures to be 15 or 20 degrees above zero at that time of year isn't something the race directors are willing to gamble on.
On top of that, if road conditions are icy it creates a potentially dangerous situation for any cars parked along the side of the road and any pedestrians making their way toward the race entrance. And regardless of the weather, a walk of a mile or more made attending the race start much less accessible for people with disabilities.
In addition to an improved parking situation, the fairgrounds will allow vendors to set up shop at the race start, selling food, crafts and other items to people attending the race start. Last year, with several dozen mushers' trucks crowded into the gravel pit, there was little room for vendors.
Vincent said she couldn't confirm any vendors at this time, but several that were at Heritage Days in Two Harbors and the Fisherman's Picnic in Grand Marais have expressed interest in coming to the Beargrease start. Likewise, restaurants and businesses in Two Harbors see an opportunity for a very busy weekend in a typically slow time of the year.
"What an exciting opportunity it is to be able to host a race of this caliber right here, this close to town," Two Harbors Chamber of Commerce president Janelle Jones said. "The local business community is going to feel a positive economic impact in a relatively slow time of year and we get to expose an even broader group of people to our fabulous community."
The whole weekend looks to be a busy one up and down Highway 61 on the North Shore. Beargrease organizers have also moved the race's Jan. 28 opening ceremonies to the American Legion Post in Two Harbors, and they will again have a ceremony at the grave of race namesake John Beargrease in Beaver Bay.