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1/29/2013 11:10:00 AM
Arizona Mountain Mushers and their snow dogs to visit Williams Feb. 16-17
Movie at Sultana Theater, sled-dog meet and greet and weight pull all on tap
Arizona Mountain Musher Frank Engelhardt with lead dogs Poetree, Garbo, Trinket and Dash at wheel during a recent race. Submitted photo
Arizona Mountain Musher Frank Engelhardt with lead dogs Poetree, Garbo, Trinket and Dash at wheel during a recent race. Submitted photo

David Yankus

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Arizona, a state best known for its warm climate and hot summers, is also home to Siberian huskies, Alaskan huskies, malamutes, Samoyeds and yes, sled-dog racing. Believe it or not.

And to help get the word out, officials from the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce are inviting the community to "meet the mushers" Feb. 16-17 in the Visitors Center parking lot.

The weekend's activities kick off with a meet and greet Feb. 16 from 3-5 p.m. in the Visitors Center parking lot. Guests can stop by to meet members of the Arizona Mountain Mushers group and their trusty companions. As many as 10 mushers and as many as 40 dogs will attend the event.

Arizona Mountain Mushers members plan to eat dinner at Pine Country Restaurant at 5:30 p.m. after the meet and greet. The restaurant will remain open to the public.

Closing out Saturday night's activities, the chamber presents the movie Snow Dogs starring Cuba Gooding Jr. at the Sultana Theatre at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale at 6 p.m. The cost is $2 per person and $1 for film-goers 12 and under. Popcorn, candy, soda and water will be available for purchase.

Everything else taking place this family-friendly weekend is free of charge.

"Arizona Mountain Mushers came to us because they really like to get their dogs out and run, not to mention get the word out about sled-dog racing," said Alicia Raecke, events coordinator for the chamber. "It's a fun activity for mushers and dogs. And a race is definitely something we'd like to have here eventually."

The Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Forest Service did not have enough time to plan and route a sled-dog race in or near Williams this season, but chamber officials said they hope that next year they would be able to do just that.

On Feb. 17 a weight pull competition will take place in the Visitors Center parking lot from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Raecke said she estimates about 10 dogs of different breeds will compete, from huskies and malamutes to even pit pulls.

Judges will choose winners based on best overall performance in three different weight classes, 60-80 pound dogs, 80-100 pound dogs and 100-plus pound dogs.

"Some of the dogs have been known to pull as much as 1,200 pounds," Raecke said, assuring that this is not at all harmful to the dogs. "They need to pull the load 16 feet in one minute, and the weight will increase in increments of 40 pounds. All these great animals eat well and exercise regularly, they have plenty of energy and really enjoy doing this kind of thing."

Raecke said the Arizona Mountain Mushers race all over northern Arizona, Colorado, and more. This includes Winterfest, the two-day festival of sled-dog races that takes place every January for the past 10 years at Sunrise Park ski resort on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

"We wanted to have a fun event, something different to get people excited about," said Raecke. "So why not bring some dog mushing to Williams?"

Raecke suggests all those who plan on attending bring a camera. Individuals from Camp Civitan will also be on hand to sell dog biscuits and make matching scarves for dogs and their owners.

Arizona Mountain Mushers formed in the 1980s and currently has about 30 members from around the state.

Siberian huskies are one of the most common sled dogs and thrive at temperatures below zero. And they actually tend to wilt at temperatures above 60 degrees.

Alaskan huskies are not a pure breed but a mix that can include Siberians, German shorthairs, a breed known for their energy, and even a little bit of greyhound. Alaskan huskies traditionally win such races like the Iditarod, pounding the trail with unmatched passion and ferocity.

The Mahlemut tribe of northern Alaska originally bred Malamutes as working dogs. Samoyeds are elegant but strong bundles of snow-white fur. They are among the oldest dog breeds, bred in Siberia to herd reindeer and pull sleds.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Article comment by: Matt Pennington

You need to advertise in neighboring towns like Prescott, Sedona, and Flagstaff.

Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Article comment by: marvelous marv

why doesn't the chamber and city promote the local ski area for winter activities? and Why doesn't the local paper send a reporter up to the area on the weekend to do a story? Probably because there is no money involved in advertising, etc.?? hmmmm

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: this town is hopeless

Does the Chamber ever advertise anything other than their own events? This is why we've lose the HOG rally and multiple rodeos from last year. Time to clean house in the city council and chamber alike.

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Article comment by: Bud Wilkins

I hope that the Chamer of Commerce really advertises this! Posters, media and so on! Sounds like a fun day!

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Article comment by: Kerry-Lynn Moede

Yay! What cool idea! I hope they really do make a course so they can come back for a race. I bet LOTS of people would come to town to see such an event. Way to go. :-)

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