Crowds gather for U.P. 200 start

The streets of downtown Marquette were full as people as they huddled in the cold weather to watch the 24th running of the U.P. 200 sled dog race get underway Friday night.

The first sled dog team left downtown at 6:50 p.m., following by the 16 remaining teams.  The sled dog teams went off in two minute intervals.

There are 65 total teams participating in the whole weekend of racing events, including the Midnight Run and Jack Pine 30.  The Midnight Run started at 9 p.m. from downtown Marquette, and the Jack Pine 30 starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in Gwinn.

People said their favorite part of the start of the race was seeing the dogs, and downtown Marquette lit up at night.

Michele Juip came from St. Cloud, Minnesota to see the race for the first time.  Her daughter is a senior at Northern Michigan University, and said it would be her last chance to see the race.

“I love how excited the dogs get,” Juip said.  “And it’s just fun.  It’s fun to be around all the people, and the lights lit up.  It’s a great place.”

The sled dog teams have a layover in Wetmore just after midnight Saturday, before ending up in Grand Marais Saturday afternoon.

Two sled dogs ready to race

The U.P. 200 is a major event that showcases Marquette, and the whole U.P.

“It brings so many people into town,” Jim Winkowski, from Gwinn, said.

He has been racing in the Jack Pine 30 since the race began.  “The variety of races and the people, it’s quite an experience.  It’s big time racing.  And it’s in the U.P., so it’s great.”

Starting line for the U.P. 200 and Midnight Run

“There’s no better feeling heading towards the finish line, or at the beginning of the race,” Keith Peppler, a U.P. 200 Judge said.  “This is an outstanding race.  One of the biggest thrills here is heading out downtown (Marquette) on Main Street.”

There were mushers from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine and Alaska participating in the race.  There were a few teams from Canada, and even one from South Africa.