FORT KENT – A musher’s racing bib from the 2005 Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race made its way around the world during the past year, and Tuesday night it was returned, professionally framed, to race organizers.
The bib worn by Ward Wallin of Two Harbors, Minn., in the 2005 race was signed by all the mushers in the race and sent to Josh Hull, a handler of Wallin’s team who was serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.
Just below the neckline of the bib, Wallin had written: “To Josh, this one’s for you.”
Included in the framed memento is a photograph of Hull, dressed in military desert garb, wearing Wallin’s number 23 racing bib.
“I want my deposit back for the bib I kept last year,” Wallin told the crowd of some 200 people at the 2006 mushers banquet Tuesday night. “I have brought the bib back.
“I want to present this to the Can-Am Crown [International Sled Dog Race],” he said as he presented the framed memento to Rita Cannan, president of the Fort Kent organization. “You people here really make us feel good. This is a great place.”
Wallin, who finished seventh in this year’s competition, said Hull’s father is a musher who has competed at Fort Kent. The younger Hull has helped Wallin’s kennel for years.
“Last year during the Can-Am, he was in Afghanistan,” Wallin said. “We just wanted to send him something to remind him of the race, and to let him know we were thinking of him and the soldiers.”
The annual banquet Tuesday night at the Lonesome Pine Lodge is where mushers who finish the annual 250-mile race get their share of $29,000 in cash for their efforts.
The purse for the Irving Woodlands 250-mile Can-Am race is $20,000. The winner, this year it was Matt Carstens of Whitefield, N.H., gets $4,500 and the other top 11 finishers share the remaining money.
The top five fastest mushers in each of the five legs of the race also share stage purses of $1,000 for each leg of the race. That is sponsored by five local businesses.
Finally, all mushers who finish the grueling race through the northern Maine Woods split a $5,000 finishing touch purse.
“This is one of the best races we mushers have,” Carstens told the audience. “You have a good organization.
“The Canadian mushers that compete here have been the best influence on me in mushing,” he said. “It’s influenced how I train and how I race. I ran the race Martin [Massicotte, the 2005 champion] did. Thank you, Martin.”
Massicotte, who has run the 250-mile race 10 times in its 14-year history, was looking for his fourth crown. He came in second to Carstens.
“Several mushers helped me on the trail, and they all finished behind me,” Massicotte said Tuesday night when he talked of the camaraderie of mushers. “They gave me meat for my dogs, and that’s very special to me.
“I would not have finished without them,” he said in French. “Congratulations to Matt [Carstens], a good musher and his good dogs. I will be back next year.”
Most of the top 10 mushers told the crowd they would be back in 2007.
They raved about the trails, the organization that puts on the race, and the friendliness of the people in northern Maine.
“This would not be possible without the people, and all the volunteers involved,” Cannan said in closing the banquet.
The banquet for athletes in the 30 and 60 mile races was held Sunday.