By: Jerry Bath
Three hundred fifty-four days ago this family we call Stage Stop parted ways with handshakes and hugs. This morning is the day we have all been waiting for. Some of us meet for breakfast while others have been training in the area for weeks.
The days’ events unfold at 9 AM with a pre-race vet check where all the participating dogs go through a thorough examination, head to tail. The final chosen ones for each team then will get a microchip implant for tracking purposes and to ensure that only the preselected 16 are allowed to race. Twenty-three mushers and over 300 dogs will fill the staging area parking lot where they will spend the day until this evenings’ race starts.
Mushers also get a chance to catch up with old friends. Check out the competition, old and new… do they have new dogs? What kind of harness is that? Those dogs look awfully big or small! It’s really funny when you see the dogs get dropped in the staging area on race day. Veteran dogs will stand at attention… that’s right I’m back. While a rookie dog might hit the ground wild-eyed as if to say… what have I done? Even more hilarious is that you can see mushers doing the same thing. (Boy, I love this game.)
Inbetween 9 am and 6 pm the mushers have several responsibilities. There will be mandatory meetings, photos, interviews and time with their Jr. Mushers that will ride the race trail with them for the ceremonial start of the race.
The Pedigree Stage Stop Ceremonial race starts downtown in the famous town square of Jackson Hole weaving through neighborhoods all on snow packed trails provided by the city of Jackson and ending at Snow King Resort with a torchlight parade, fireworks, and a banquet.