Willow Winter Carnival

3 February 2011    3.00PM    Temperature  29 F   Mostly blue skies and sunny.

2011 sees the 50th Willow Winter Carnival. A week long celebration of life and a good excuse to get out and mix socially. Willow is smart and makes the most of their Carnival Week by starting it on a Friday night and running it right through to the following Sunday, so we all get an extra couple of days of jollity. We missed the Friday evening’s activities because we’re a little disorganised and didn’t make it in time for the fireworks and the fire lanterns. We didn’t get to the Kick Off dinner either, but from what we have heard, it was great.

Saturday and Sunday’s activities are focussed around the Community Center and lake. Local crafters and artists have some really nice stuff for sale, there are some very unusual contests and a variety of sporting events to enter. One year, I’m going to give serious consideration to trying the “Outhouse” race. Of course, we don’t have a dog suitable to enter the Ugly Dog contest. I was tempted to try to find a Snowshoe Softball team to play for, but as competent as I am at standing up in them, I really struggle to move at anything other than a slow plod. Anything faster usually results in a faceplant.

Big race of the weekend was the Earl Norris Memorial Open Class Sled Dog race. Anyone who knows their Alaskan or Siberian Husky history knows the story of Earl and Natalie and this race honors his memory.

A team of siberian huskies ready to race
Team Stormwatch at the start of the Earl Norris Memorial Race

We headed down onto the lake on Sunday afternoon to catch the start (and finish – sprint races do have some advantages for spectators) of the second day of the race. The teams go out in reverse order, slowest team goes out first and the fastest team are last to leave. It makes for interesting racing. One of our near neighbours, Jenny, was racing and we were also keeping an eye on Wayne Curtis’ Team Stormwatch as the only all Siberian team racing. Jenny had an eventful run on the Saturday by all accounts and dropped a couple of dogs for the second day.  She may not have improved her final position and duly won the Red Lantern, but she also looked to be the racer having the most fun and crossed the finish line with the biggest, brightest smile going.

I had hoped to catch the Stampede race. A lap of the lake by dogteam, but started with the musher in his/her sleeping bag, having to boil a pot of water, actually harness his dogs and put them into the lines, before being allowed to leave. The prizemoney was to be hung on a line above the finish line – so, no use in being first if your dogs are just going to blow right by the payout !  Sadly, we had to go tend to our own dogs, but maybe next year………

Next weekend sees more of the same including a “Best Beard” contest, “Most Abused Carrharts”  (and we’ve seen some pretty damaged carrharts out and about in everyday life, so I can only imagine how bad the entrants will look), Ax Throwing, Cigar Smoking (seriously ? ) and a Pie Auction.  There are lots more and a full schedule can be found here.

Today also saw the start of the Willow Tug 300. A new distance race organised by Willow Dog Mushers Association, it started at 10.00 a.m. and I’m sure the 23 racers are hoping that temperatures are going to cool off quite a bit.  Good luck to everyone involved.


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