Chamber out, group effort in: Musher’s Bowl set for Jan. 25-26

P1 39 mushers bowl-2

THE MUSHERS WILL BE RACING at Five Fields Farm on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 25 and 26 in South Bridgton. The Maine Lakes Musher's Bowl will not, however, be associated with this year’s Winter Carnival, which is being held on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 15 and 16.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

This year’s Maine Lakes Musher’s Bowl at Five Fields Farm in South Bridgton will go on as planned on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 25 and 26, under the sponsorship of a new nonprofit organization, Down East Mushers Bowl Inc.

Dog sled races have been a tradition in Bridgton since the early 1940s, when they were held on Main Street in Downtown Bridgton. The present-day Musher's Bowl had its genesis in West Bridgton a quarter century ago, when the dogs raced on Moose Pond.

For the past seven years, the Musher’s Bowl has been part of the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s Winter Carnival. Chamber officials, however, decided this fall to hold the Winter Carnival over President’s Day Weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 15 and 16 — a weekend that presented scheduling conflicts for the Downeast Sled Dog Club.

As members of the International Sled Dog Racing Association, the Down East Sled Dog Club did not want to skip a year in its established scheduling slot of the weekend after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which this year is Jan. 25 and 26.

“Tom Gyger, in particular, did not want to skip a year,” said Michael Friedman, a local attorney and sled dog enthusiast who formed the nonprofit organization as a hosting entity for the Bridgton event, which draws teams from all over New England who are part of the International Sled Dog Racing Association. Gyger, the owner of Five Fields Farm, is also a member of the nonprofit, along with Paul and Shirley Field and their daughter Charlotte Carroll. The Fields are members of the South Bridgton Congregational Church, which will be selling hot soups and drinks inside the warming hut during the dog sled races.

People love to see the dogs race, because the sled dogs are happiest when they are working and pulling a sled. Gyger said one of the appeals of the Maine Lakes Musher's Bowl is that spectators have many places from which they can view the dogs and their mushers racing along the trails.

“We have a very spectator-friendly race course,” Gyger said.

The S-curved cross country trails cover hilly terrain that offers a challenging race for the mushers and dogs. Mushers will be racing three-dog junior teams, four-dog or six-dog teams in the races, on trails that cover both the Five Fields Farm property and property owned by the Loon Echo Land Trust.

LELT will also be holding a snowshoe hike over the two-day race. Skijors will participate in one-dog, two-dog or in the recreation class. Skijors use cross-country skis and a line attached to their dog to race. There is even an event for youngsters to try the sport. A 50-yard dash is held for youth to try out the sled with one dog. The South Bridgton Congregational Church will be selling hot soups and drinks inside the warming hut.

Admission is $5, which includes both days of racing and parking. Children ages five and under are free. Since the event is not being sponsored by the chamber this year, there will be no Winter Carnival Buttons issued to spectators. For more information, visit the club’s website, www.desdc.org

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