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Finish line of a Mid-MN 150 Dog Sled Race - Northland Press file photo

29th annual Mid-MN 150 Sled Dog Race slated for February 11

Web posted February 7, 2017
By Kate Perkins, Northland Press Correspondent

On Feb. 11, teams of six and eight barking and yipping sled dogs will excitedly embark from the Village Inn in Outing on 30- and 40-mile journeys to Remer.

The Mid-Minnesota 150 sled dog race is one of few mid-distance sled dog races in the state, and is in its 28th year. Dan Levno, race coordinator, said that the race is a fun event for both mushers and for spectators. Levno said that animal lovers, especially, will enjoy watching the start and finish of the race.

“These dogs, they just love to run,” Levno said. “It’s so neat to see how excited they get.” Their excitement and eagerness to run starts as soon as they see their mushers holding harnesses. The dogs bark, howl and jump around, but when the race starts, “then they’re happy and it’s all business,” Levno said. Levno is a musher himself.

The Mid-Minnesota 150 got its title because it used to be a 150 mile race, though the race has been shortened over the years. The six-dog division follows a 30-mile route to Remer, and the eight-dog division follows a 40- mile route to Remer.

Levno said that when the race was 150 miles, mushers ran the whole thing without stopping, meaning they ran through the night. That meant that at every road crossing, volunteers were needed all night to watch for the teams to provide traffic safety as they crossed. Due to a lack of volunteers, the shorter routes have been much more manageable. All road crossings are still manned by volunteers, but today the race is finished in an afternoon.

In the past the race has drawn as many as 96 teams, though in recent years it draws around 20 teams. At one time, the race was far more competitive as teams competed for a $5,000 purse. Today mushers compete for glory and a small amount of cash, but Levno said the ultracompetitive feel of the race is gone, which he feels is a positive culture change.

“People who come to race are coming because they have fun, and running dogs is supposed to be fun,” Levno said. Today the race is more relaxed and focused on enjoying the activity.

After leaving the starting line, the race travels north through the Land O’Lakes State Forest, following snowmobile and ATV trails that Levno and race cocoordinator, Al Larson, have been working to clear.

Along the route, the Brainerd Area Amateur Radio Club (Ham radio operators) help ensure safety by watching the course and communicating where each team is located on the trail. Levno said he couldn’t do it without them, and in the past the club has made it possible to find teams that took a wrong turn and help them get back on track.

The race finishes in Remer, pulling into town on the Sioux Line Trail. The finish line will also host other activities, like a bonfire, chili cook off, snow pile and more. Spectators are both welcome and encouraged to watch the teams finish. The chili cook off begins at 3 p.m. in the fire hall next to the finish line. After the cook off will be the race award ceremony.

Six-dog teams will leave the Village Inn in Outing at 12:30, and eight-dog teams will start at 1 p.m on Feb. 11. Levno expects the teams to finish in Remer around 2.5 hours from the starting time, though times will vary based on snow conditions.

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