Marquette, MI – February 15, 2019 – A 29 year tradition continued this evening on the streets of Marquette as 15 mushers and over 160 dogs set out for the start of the 2019 UP200. Tonight’s Opening Ceremony for both the UP200 and Midnight Run had Washington Street packed with spectators here to watch mushers and their teams compete in the Upper Peninsula’s only mid-distance Iditarod Qualifier.
Sunny.FM’s very own Walt Lindala has been a long standing voice of the UP200 paired with Frida Waara. The two kicked things off be welcoming everyone out and thanking the UP200 sponsors, without whom, this annual U.P. winter tradition would not be possible.
After Walt and Frida filled visitors in on some information about this year’s UP200 and the Marquette Male Chorus sang both the Canadian and American National Anthem, we heard from a number of figure heads who came up to the U.P. for this local tradition. United States Senator Gary Peters started things off before passing the stage to Fred Stonehouse, Mayor of Marquette! We also heard from Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson, State Representative Sarah Cambensy and State Senator Ed McBroom. Michigan’s new Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist took a moment to speak followed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The Mining Journal’s Jim Reevs was next Lead Dog Sponsor mBank representative Boris Martysz after Reevs. Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association President Darlene Walch wrapped up the ceremony leading into the start of the dog sled race!
Ryan Redington from Skagway, Alaska was the first out the chute tonight. Ryan and his dogs were an exciting first team to see this evening as he literally grew up racing. His grandfather was the father of the Iditarod and Ryan’s father is an Iditarod Hall of Famer. Seeing mushers like Ryan competing in this event shows just how much of a first-rate event our UP200 is. In total 15 different teams including Martin Massicotte, Jeniffer Freking, and Erin Redington left Marquette tonight to embark on their 238 mile race across the harsh U.P. terrain, competing for a place in the Iditarod and cash prizes ranging from $8,600 to $500.
Around 8:30pm 14 more teams begin their adventure for the Midnight Run, a 94 mile race from Marquette to Chatham and back. Tomorrow 18 teams will meet at First Baptist Church in Gwinn for the start of the Jack Pine 30, a 25 mile race around Gwinn and Sands Station area.
Don’t forget you can track all of the Upper Peninsula 200 action online! Visit the official Live Tracker site to see where the teams are.
To catch the teams returning from the UP200, make sure to be at Mattson Lower Harbor late Sunday morning and early afternoon to see the dogs and their mushers cross the finish line. Visit the UP200 website for more information.