The Labrador Winter Games (LWG) announced on March 5 that five teams have registered to compete in the traditional dog sled race and vie for the Henry John Williams Memorial Trophy.
“The Board of Directors of the Labrador Winter Games is extremely pleased that an event that captures the spirit and tradition of the Games is proceeding as planned,” said Ernie McLean, chairperson of the LWG, in a media release. “This is an exciting competitive cultural event that truly celebrates the history of sledding in Labrador.”
The races have been the subject of controversy since it was announced earlier this year they would only be an exhibition sport at this year’s Games. The racers will not collect points.
A number of mushers decided to boycott the games over the change and the LWG previously told the Labradorian it was too close to the event to make any significant changes.
McLean said the change was made to encourage greater participation in the Games, following a few years with declining enrollment.
He said the goal now is to take lessons from the preparations leading up to the 2019 Labrador Winter Games and work with the mushers to build a strong regional event for the next LWG in 2022.
LWG is hoping to meet with mushers while they are in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for the Games to receive input, as well as discuss ideas and options for reviving and preserving the dog sled event, according to the release.
“We want the mushers to know that we appreciate their longstanding efforts to preserve the tradition of dog sledding and we value their input on how we can work together on a plan to make the 2022 event even more prestigious,” McLean said.
The best dog sled team will be presented with the Henry John Williams Memorial Trophy. The trophy pays tribute to the Cartwright fisherman and trapper who kept and worked dog teams well into his 70s.
In addition, a new award, the Most Traditional Dog Team, will be presented to the musher who makes the best use of traditional lashings and other materials.
The dog sled race will get started at 9 a.m. on March 23 at Terrington Basin, Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Racers will run from the dock to Rabbit Island and back, a distance of 30 km.