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The oldest All-American Dog Race tradition continues

ASHTON, Idaho (KIFI)- It's dog sled racing season and many of the mushers in the nearby area came to Ashton to compete in the oldest race in the states.

The Dog Derby started in 1917 and since its inaugural run has almost always started in downtown Ashton. Leaving right from the intersection of 5th of Main, it is one of the remaining few dog sled races that start from downtown.

"We like it. This is the only race that we come to that starts right downtown, and the first time you do it, you're thinking, oh, my goodness. And after that, it's just like so much fun. And having all the people around some of the dogs. I get nervous about that. But after they've done it a time or two, then they look forward to it as well," said Karen Yeargain a Musher who came to the race from Oregon.

Thad McCracken says seeing the people come out for the races is the best. "I love the town of Ashton, and I love this race. It's fun to have participated in this for quite a few years now. And I really hope the race keeps going and coming back. This is an amazing event and I love that they started in town. Hard to find very many races like that anymore."

For many of the mushers involved the track for the race was perfect. "This trail was incredible and perfectly groomed. The temperatures were cold so the trail stayed up nicely. The turnaround loop was big enough and well-packed," said Karen Yeargain.

Yeargain added that while her dogs usually train on hills being a part of the race and having a flat track was a fun experience for the dogs. "There was just nothing that was a hazard. And we train on really mountainous terrain. So my dogs are used to going up a lot of hills and down the hills. Not a lot of uphill. And so they wanted to run fast because they were anticipating that they'd slow down eventually on the downhill or excuse me, on the uphill. That the dogs figured that they'd slow down a bit when they hit the uphill. And we just never hit the uphill. So they just kept going fast. It makes a fun, trail for the dogs because they're going, wow no hills!"

McCracken said this year the trail was perfect. "You get out there in the fields, we've had a great view of the Tetons both days racing, and they just kind of cruise around. I'm pretty proud of how well-trained they are and I wouldn't say they were crazy on the trail. They just get down to business. They're trained to run just like a lab is trained to fetch a ball or a heelers train to herd whatever it can herd."

For another musher, it was her first time racing, though she has been mushing for the past 4 years, as a dog sled tour guide. "This winter I had the opportunity to do a race. So I'm not doing the tours quite as much. And was it to work with training some puppies and then also being able to come to the race," said Rachael Austin.

Austin said that though she has been mushing with tour sled dogs, she has always wanted to give a dog sled race a try. "It's awesome working with the dogs and, you know, seeing the different sides of it, the racing and seeing everything that goes into racing, like the different styles of dog care and the different styles of sleds and, you know, the passing that's a lot different also. And just being able to experience that and see the race culture."

Saturday's races started at 08:30 and will go out most of the day. All are encouraged to come and see one of Ashton's most famous and popular traditions. Visitors were encouraged to see the weighted pull, mutt race, and skijoring.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8.


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