The organizer of the GCI Open North America Championship Sled Dog Race aims to organize a carnival atmosphere and a larger-than-usual purse for the 70th anniversary of the competition next year. The Fairbanks sprint mushing championship has offered a total prize purse of about $15,000 in recent years. Next year, because it’s a big anniversary year, the Alaska Dog Mushers Association has set a goal of $70,000, board member Casey Thompson said. The association hasn’t set the total it will guarantee for the race, but plans to announce the guaranteed purse in January, he said. For now they’re trying to attract sponsors. “When we decided to go bigger we decided it’s the 70th anniversary, let’s shoot for ($70,000),” he said. “We don’t know if we’ll get there or not but we’re trying to pull out all the stops to do that.”The Open North American Championship, which starts and finishes on Second Avenue in downtown Fairbanks, is a series of sprint races spread across three days. It bills itself as the oldest continuously held sled dog race in the world. Last year, 18 dog teams competed. The goal is to offer a larger purse to attract more rural and out-of-state mushers, Thompson said. In the past, mushers from Alaska, Canada, the Midwest and the Northeast have come to Fairbanks for the ONAC. For the first time in many years, the Alaska Dog Mushers Association also plans to organize attractions like vendors, ice sculptures and ice slides downtown during the race. A carnival was traditionally part of the Open North American Championship, but hasn’t been in many years, Thompson said.The race typically takes place during regional Native corporation Doyon, Limited’s annual meeting so people in Fairbanks on shareholder business can watch or participate.“We’re trying to bring that back to have more things and draw more people downtown,” he said.A $70,000 purse would put the ONAC on par with Anchorage’s Fur Rendezvous sprint race. Neither sprint race is as heavily sponsored as the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, which promises at least $127,110 in 2015. And all races are dwarfed by the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race’s purse, set at $725,100 next year. ONAC is scheduled for March 20-22.
Racing in the ACE Race with Tonya Helm On this episode of the Mushing podcast,