Posted by: Kath Usitalo | February 15, 2011

A Doggone Good Time In Marquette

Thousands of spectators line the streets of Marquette for the start of the U.P. 200 sled dog race

If you thought Marquette put on the dog last week for President Obama’s visit, you need to go to the Upper Peninsula city for the U.P. 200 and Midnight Run sled dog races held the third weekend of February each year since 1990.

A musher and his sled pre-race

The U.P. 200, which starts Friday, February 18 and runs through Sunday the 20th, covers about 240 miles and is a qualifying race for the Iditarod. I’d heard that 15,000 folks line the streets of Marquette to send off the mushers and their 12-dog teams, but until we attended the start last year I really didn’t believe it.

We arrived in the late afternoon and were able to roam the staging area to see the dogs and racers up close as they prepped for the start of the race, which awards a top prize of $7,000.

A dog rests up for the big event

Up to 40 teams are allowed to participate each year so I thought there’d be more backstage chaos and lots of dogs barking, but I guess these pooches are professionals and the activity didn’t phase them.

By the 7:10 p.m. race start thousands of spectators had packed the sidewalks behind temporary fences, and cheered as each team zipped by.

The starting line, with Lake Superior in the distance

The racers are dispatched one by one at timed intervals according to numbers pulled the day before. They whiz through several city blocks before heading into the wilderness on the two-day trek; most teams return to Marquette on Sunday afternoon or evening.

Everyone in the bundled-up crowd was in a good mood, mingling and ducking into bars and restaurants that add to the festive atmosphere in town. Others headed to bonfires and refreshments at several viewing sites along the race route.

Some spectators spend Saturday in Grand Marais as the mushers arrive at the race’s halfway point for a layover before heading back to Marquette.

Since we weren’t sure what to expect of the event we didn’t plan to spend the night—we had to head back to Blue Skies that evening to tend to Tucker the Wonder Dog (no pets allowed at the race). Next time it would be fun to stay in Marquette and enjoy more of the festivities.

Other races February 18-20, 2011:

The Midnight Run is an 8-dog race that covers about 91 miles, departing Gwinn at 6 p.m. Friday evening and ending in Munising Saturday morning.

Also on Saturday the Jack Pine 30, a six-dog, 30-mile race leaves Gwinn at 9:30 a.m. and ends up in Marquette.

Coming Up:

Head to Copper Country March 4-6 for the second annual CopperDog 150, a 150-mile race that begins and ends in Calumet.

Related Post: Banshee Dog, Sunday Snapshot, March 7, 2010

Visitor Info Clicks:



Grand Marais

Pure Michigan

Upper Peninsula



  1. I love the photo of the dog sleeping. Looks like it was a fun event!

    • Wish I could go this year again…or maybe to the Keweenaw for CopperDog 150.

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