Dog power

Chapman’s Winterfest sled race is on

Photo submitted to the Times Observer by Walt Atwood, (Tionesta Valley Snowmobile Club) Jan. 2018 - A crowd of spectators cheer as they await the launch of a Mid-Distance Race sled dog team during the 2018 Jim Lobdell Memorial Sled Dog Races.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns.

Despite extended, somewhat awry, construction plans at Chapman State Park, a long-time winter tradition of dogs and men will take place this year at the same location.

Warren County Winterfest will take place Friday, Jan. 18 through Sunday, Jan. 20. The event will be limited this year due to continuing renovations but one 40-plus-year tradition will still provide spectators a chance to witness a spectacle of amazing teamwork.

The Jim Lobdell Memorial Sled Dog Races will kick off the event Friday morning at approximately 8:45 a.m. The 32-mile mid-distance race will start in the Chapman Park campground.

The only requirement for the races to take place is that there be snow on the ground, according to Ed Atwood, long-time organizer and

president of the Tionesta Valley Snowmobile Club.

Times Observer file photo The Jim Lobdell Memorial Sled Dog Races will kick off this year’s Winterfest at Chapman State Park on Friday January 18 at approximately 8:45 a.m.

Atwood said the races typically attract a sizable crowd of all ages anxious to watch something not often seen in this area. “For the last few years we have been the only sled dog race in the state,” Atwood said. “This year there is one planned for the Pa. Grand Canyon.”

Teams of sled dog racers look forward to the annual event at Chapman State Park, according to Atwood. “There’s nothing like sled dog racing,” he said. “The way the dogs work together is something to see. For the racers, being alone out there with their dogs, just swishing along…it’s great.”

While ongoing construction of the dam at the park is limiting the number of activities at this year’s Winterfest, the park still provides a great location for the event. “The Winterfest committee could hold the event elsewhere,” said Tyson Martin, park manager. “The park has traditionally hosted the event. The trails, parking, restrooms and other features make it an ideal location.”

Various sled dog races and a canine weight pull are also scheduled to take place during the event on Saturday and Sunday, according to Atwood.

People also have the opportunity to break bread with some sled dog racers at a “Meet the Mushers” spaghetti dinner held at the Kalbfus Rod and Gun Club on Friday, Jan. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. The club is located at 2178 Chapman Dam Road, Clarendon.

Another traditional activity that provides support for the Warren Salvation Army will continue during the festival this year. Plungers and pledgers are still being sought for the Patrick Shine Memorial Polar Bear Plunge scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the beach area.

Salvation Army Captain Keith Jache said that pledge forms for the plunge can be picked up at the Warren location, 311 Beech St.

Forms are also available via a link at wpa.salvationarmy.org/WesternPennsylvania/warren or at Facebook.com/SalvationArmyWesternPA.

Despite limited events, organizers are anticipating a substantial turnout this year and are seeking an equally substantial amount of helpers to bring the event back to include more activities next year.

“Volunteers don’t have to be ‘dog people’,” Atwood said. “There are a lot of different events during the festival, like the outhouse races.”

Atwood said this is an ideal time to join the Winterfest Committee. “With this being a down year as far as activities, new people have time to just learn and share ideas without jumping into too much right away,” he said.

The event is in need of volunteers to serve on the committee and to help with the various events, according to Wesley Ramsey, executive director of Penn Soil Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council. “We need more involvement from the community,” Ramsey said. “We want to get back to a big event next year.”

To volunteer of for more information contact Ramsey at 726-1441 ext 5 or Atwood at 726-2774.

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