The Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race visited Pelly Crossing and Carmacks with education, fun, and rides on the agenda this past Monday.
Yukon Operations Manager, Laura Vinnedge, joined by Assistant Race Manager Briana Mackay, Yukon Quest veteran Rob Cooke, and his Shaytaan Siberians, hit the road for the third year to visit schools in two Yukon communities the race runs through in February. They visited Tantalus School in Carmacks providing a 45-minute presentation to approximately 50 students from kindergarten to grade seven. Both students and teachers took advantage of having the organization around, asking many enthusiastic questions about the race, sled dogs, and racing. After heading over to the Carmacks Recreation Centre where the after-school program is held, Cooke gave rides to around 20 lucky students on a short portion of the Yukon Quest trail. Each participating student received an official race poster, button or patch as a keepsake from the visit.
“The students at Tantalus School look forward to the yearly visit from the Yukon Quest team,” says Morgan Douglas, Tantalus School Principal. “Our students love visiting with the dogs, having dogsled rides, and hearing about the adventures of Rob and others on the Quest. We have a staff member, Dawn Baker, who helps groom the trail for the Carmacks part of the Quest as well, so our students are very familiar with the arrival of the teams. We also take our students to see the mushers and teams in February, which is an event they look forward to each year! Thank you to the Quest for coming to Tantalus School!”
In Pelly Crossing they received a warm welcome at the Eliza Van Bibber School where Cooke gave a 20-minute presentation to students from kindergarten to grade six. The presentation focused on running the Yukon Quest which was very well-received and included dressing a student volunteer in his oversized parka, causing a delighted reaction from the crowd. Cooke showed the students how to put a harness and booties on one of the Shaytaan Siberians, Skits, and finished the visit off with sled rides around the school yard for approximately 28 students. Each student walked away with an official race poster, and the school was provided t-shirts to give away as prizes.
“This is the third time we have supported the Yukon Quest in visits to Pelly Crossing and Carmacks since 2013; we feel it is so important to give something back to these communities that every year open their doors, and hearts, to the Yukon Quest dog teams and make all of us, mushers, volunteers and staff feel so welcome in their communities,” says Rob Cooke, veteran musher and owner of Shaytaan Siberian Huskies. “I think the Quest would be a very different race without the huge support provided by Selkirk First Nation and Little Salmon and Carmacks First Nations and the respective communities of Pelly Crossing and Carmacks; it is hard to describe what a great feeling it is to pull into these checkpoints after a long, hard, and often very cold and remote run and seeing friendly, smiling and welcoming faces.”
“Building relationships with the communities along the trail is so important to the longevity of the race,” says Natalie Haltrich, Yukon Quest Executive Director – Yukon. “We rely on every community the race passes through on both sides of the border and if we can give back year-round, we’ll jump on that opportunity. Equally important to the organization is providing education about the race so members of the community are excited and come out to experience it when it passes through every year.”
The Yukon Quest would like to send a heartfelt thanks to Principal Joshua Korten, Acting Principal Angelita Seloterio and staff at Eliza Van Bibber School, Principal Morgan Douglas and staff at Tantalus School, and Cindy Underhill, George Kontogonis and their welcoming and enthusiastic after-school staff. Special gratitude to Selkirk First Nation and Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation for letting the Yukon Quest run this event on their traditional territories.