WILLIAMS, Ariz. - People will have a chance to meet sled dogs and see them in action when the Meet the Mushers event returns to Williams for the second year this weekend.
Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber President Gioia Goodrum said she is looking forward to the event this year after its success last year.
"It was great, it was so much fun," she said. "Ultimately we'd love to get some snow and let them do a race."
This year's events kick off with a meet and greet Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Williams and Forest Service Visitor Center parking lot. People can meet Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, Alaskan Huskies and Samoyeds and talk to members of the Arizona Mountain Mushers about their sport.
After the meet and greet, the mushers will have dinner at Pine Country Restaurant at 5:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend if they'd like to learn more about mushing.
On Sunday at 10 a.m. the mushers will put on a scooter demonstration in the Williams and Forest Service Visitor Center parking lot.
Then from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the dogs will compete in a weight pull.
"It's really fun to watch," Goodrum said. "It's amazing to see these dogs-they just take off."
Lori Natseway is the weight pull chair for the Arizona Mountain Mushers.
"We're a group for people with dogs of any kind. It doesn't have to just be the northern breeds," Natseway said. "We promote sled dog racing, weight pulls, skijoring, backpacking, any activity-a way to be active and a good bonding outing for the dog and their owner."
The group does races at Mormon Lake near Flagstaff and in the White Mountains near Show Low every year.
While the majority of the Arizona Mountain Mushers live in the Flagstaff area, the group also has some members in Phoenix and Tucson.
Natseway got involved in mushing after reading about a weight pull practice with the group. After taking her Siberian Husky to the practice, the two fell in love with the sport. Natseway has since rescued another dog that now participates in mushing as well.
"I just like to have something to do with my dog that's fulfilling for both of us," she said. "It really is gratifying to see how happy it makes them and watching them build confidence, especially the rescue that we have. It's amazing."
Natseway added that mushing has helped her get to know her dogs better.
"It's a good way to pay more attention to my dogs and really have a better idea of what they're thinking or feeling or if they're listening or not," she said.
Natseway expects between 40 to 50 dogs to participate in the meet and greet portion of the event and about 20-25 dogs to participate in the weight pull.
For the scooter demonstration, members of the Arizona Mountain Mushers will show how they race on a scooter with one or two dogs. While some people use the scooters to practice for sled racing, Natseway said scootering is also a sport on its own.
"We like to show that to people that it doesn't have to be all about the sled and the snow," she said.
For the weight pull portion of the event, the dogs must pull a weighted cart 16 feet across a carpet in one minute. The cart alone weighs 250 pounds, and organizers will add bags of dog food to the cart in 40-pound increments to make the pull more difficult. The dogs will compete in three weight classes. Some dogs can pull as much as 1,500 pounds.
A novice class of weight pulling is open to the public on a first come first served basis. The Arizona Mountain Mushers have a few harnesses they can loan to people for the event. The entry fee is $10 and registration paperwork will be available at the event.
Participating dogs must be at least one year old and at least 35 pounds. The dogs must have a good attitude toward other people and other dogs to participate. Female dogs cannot be pregnant or in heat.
"We do encourage people to come out and just try it," Natseway said. "It's a really good thing for pet dogs, especially because instead of trying to get them to run away from you you're having them come to you, and it's a short distance."
Goodrum said Meet the Mushers is a great event for the whole community.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "If you're a dog lover, it's a great event to come to."
More information is available from the chamber at (928) 635-0273.