One of the only times you’ll ever see a traffic jam on the Inuvik-Aklavik ice road is when there is a dog race during the jamboree.
Heilbrunn and his wife own a pack of Alaskan Huskies. Though they don’t race them all over, he said they love to raise the dogs.“It’s very expensive, it’s a lot of hard work, it keeps you in good shape,” said Heilbrunn. “We train them three or four days a week, we run them at night, from September until April. We’re just out in the bush every night working with them.”
Though the sport is not as popular as it used to be, Heilbrunn said he thinks the tradition will return with time.
“Danny here, he could be the next generation,” he said of Danny Kaye, his opponent in the race and dog-driving student.
Bernice Furlong, one of the jamboree’s directors, oversaw the dog race. She said there hasn’t been a dog race in two years because sign-up rates were too low as there were too many categories.
“We’ve had dog races in the past, but it was kind of slacking off, so we decided this year that we’d go with one open-class dog race,” said Furlong. “We’re just trying to bring the tradition back, and we’re happy that we had two dog teams participate today.”
Furlong said the race went really well and she is happy with the turnout.
“As you can see, the people of Inuvik are just flocking down because we haven’t had a dog race for a couple of years,” she said. “You can tell by the size of the crowd how well-received it’s been today. The weather was good, everybody was excited, you see a young new musher here, so it’s good.”
Furlong said the jamboree committee hopes to bring back the tradition of dog sledding through a younger generation of mushers.
“It’s kind of been lost, and we’re trying to encourage the people in the Delta and outlying communities to race in dog races,” said Furlong. “A lot of the dog mushers have given up their dogs because it’s a really expensive sport, but we think it’s important that the young people try to get back into the tradition.”
Furlong said she hopes there will be another dog race at the 2019 jamboree.