The New England Sled Dog races plan to return to Hamilton again this winter after being completely cancelled last year because of a nearly snowless winter.
“We’re coming back strong,” said Robert Henrici, co-chairman of the races and its non-profit organizer, Friends of New England Sled Dog Club Races.
The most important thing right now isn’t snow, Henrici said, but instead that temperatures are cold enough for the ground to freeze solid. Solid ground is needed to use the parking area.
And Henrici isn’t worried about whether it will snow or not. There’s "a lot of moving parts” plus “nuts and bolts” to get worked out, he said, and “I can’t worry about the things that I can not control.”
What is under the control of organizers is coming together. For example, 400 invitations went out on Tuesday for an invitation-only opening reception at the newly renovated Appleton Farms farmhouse.
The biggest change will be something that was planned for last year – move for the start and finish and parking area to the Appleton Farms grass rides and Lamson Field area off High Street.
“It’s wide open,” Henrici said, and will provide a "tremendous" vantage point for spectators.
The races will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day – January 19-20, with a backup date of Feb. 2-3 if conditions are not right in January.
This will be the fourth annual races, although last year the races had to be completely cancelled because of a lack of snow.
In 2011, the races went off both days with literally several feet of the snow after about a month of snow, with storm after storm. The first year, the races happened on Saturday but had to be cancelled on Sunday because of overnight snow melt.
The races also saw 82 teams show up to race at all levels in 2011.
“Hopefully that will happen again,” Henrici said.
The races have also included associated events, and this year Shelly Gill of Homer, Ala. will be coming to Hamilton and will put on a presentation and lecture at the Community House plus make visits to the schools. She's an author and friend of Norman Vaughn, whose name is on the featured 11-mile race in Hamilton.
While there will be a new start and finish, the various length race course will all be the same as was used in 2011, so spectators will be able to watch at places such as Pingree School and crossings of Cutler Road for longer races.
Organizers are still looking for volunteers at the races. You can sign up on its website.