LISBON — Saturday found me strapped into the basket of a dog sled and wrapped up like a burrito.  

For those of you familiar with the movie “Balto,” I felt like I was in the medicine basket being shuttled across the Arctic tundra to save sick children.

Lisbon’s Parks and Recreation Department held its inaugural Winter Festival at Beaver Park on Saturday, and yes, there was dog sledding. 

Alex Theriault, owner of Ultimate Dog Sledding out of Oxford, was pleased (and exhausted) with the turnout for the festival. 

Theriault, girlfriend/business partner Bethany Bradbury and three mushers were busy getting people on sleds from 9 a.m. straight through to 1:30 p.m. “I was not expecting this many people. Maybe 70 at the very most. Not 140,” Theriault said.

They had three ‘team’, or sleds, running all day. Each sled consisted of six dogs at a time, that were switched in and out so they could rest, and, as Theriault explained, because they would get bored of running in circles. 

The path they ran was a one-mile loop through the trails at Beaver Park. And it was beautiful.

I was given a solo ride and zipped up in the basket for ultimate comfort. Although the sled felt like it might tip over at any time (it didn’t), I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. That might’ve been partially because my face was frozen. 

The staff working the event, especially Mark Stevens and Cherie Garnett, were incredibly friendly and helpful, and made sure I didn’t freeze. 

I showed up dressed for a day about 30 degrees warmer, and they outfitted me with boots, socks, a jacket and a hat. And I am very grateful to them for that. 

Garnett, the programmer for the Parks and Recreation Department, said she really enjoyed planning the even and was excited to see it come to fruition. “It’s just very rewarding to see the families out, having fun.”

Garnett said her extensive time in Alaska with her son gave her the idea to have dog sledding at the festival. “It’s a matter of what would families like to do, outside, on a winter day.” 

She lives in the cabin in the park with her husband, and it’s obvious that they are incredibly attached to and proud of the land.

Garnett said they’ve been planning since September, and were excited about the community involvement along the way.

“People called us asking to help,” she said. “It’s awesome to see the community come together.”

L.L. Bean contacted the department about participating in the event. The outdoor outfitter hosted snowshoeing activities, and had nearly 100 participants Saturday. 

Jake and Tammy McDaniel, of McDaniel Trucking, were proud to sponsor the event. “We’re always big supporters of the community. My son’s in football, daughter’s in cheerleading,” Jake McDaniel said. “We’re always part of the community. We do what we can.”

He was especially excited to see everyone come together, both young and old, to support the event. 

Stevens, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said the goal was to get people to rediscover Beaver Park. “It’s a 300-acre gem that not a lot of people know about. This is exposure for the park, which is a beautiful resource,” he said.

“Now, we don’t have dog-sledding every day,” Stevens joked, “but we do have cross-country ski trails that are open 24/7.”

The festival saw a huge turnout of people participating in the dog-sledding, ice- and wood-carving and snowshoeing. 

Volunteers included local Boy Scouts, Free Masons of Ancient York Lodge and Positive Change Lisbon. 

“People have responded amazingly. It’s food and warmth and something to do,” Garnett said. “We’re already talking about next year!”

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