FARMINGTON — The annual Down East Sled Dog Club races are gearing up for competitions Feb. 18 and 19 off Routes 2 and 27, also known as the Farmington Falls Road.

The races are held in Bussie York’s corn maze field, said Joy Turner, who with her husband, Mark, organize the event.

There is snow and hopefully more will come, but the trails still need to be groomed, she said. 

“They are looking good,” Mark Turner said. “The New Sharon Snowmobile Riders will come help me groom the trails.” 

The Turners are looking for sponsors from the community to help with prizes for the teams. Five cash prizes are awarded for a combination of the best times over the two days of racing.

Many individual businesses provide sponsorships of $25 or more, Joy Turner said. A brochure with race terminology, race times and sponsors is prepared.

This year, Turner plans to tag each driver with a sponsor number and take photos of the business owner with the winning driver and dog team, she said. 

Once again, the days will start around 9 a.m. with skijoring, a combination of cross-country skiing and dog sledding, followed by one-dog sled races. Four- and six-dog team races follow and there will be an open, eight-dog class if the trail can be groomed.

The four-dog teams run 4 miles and the six-and eight-dog teams go 6 miles.

The race is the same weekend as the World Championship Race in Laconia, New Hampshire. The Laconia race could take some of the bigger teams, but Farmington will still have quite a few mushers, Mark Turner said.

Up to 20 mushers are expected to participate in the Farmington races. Past races have brought mushers from all over New England, Canada and some Western states.

Despite all of the planning, the race needs good conditions.

Last year, trails were ready, everything was in place and ready to go and then there was a rainstorm and warm weather. Much of the snow was gone. Trails had large bare patches and the race was canceled.

This year, hard icy snow challenged racers in Bridgton where speeds rose and became almost too dangerous, Joy Turner said.

Grooming and more snow will help prepare for the racing, but if the trails are not safe, especially for young drivers, the race will not be held, she said.

Turner expects to know by Wednesday whether the race will go on because mushers must sign up by Thursday, she said.

“It is like a wedding,” she said. “It all has to come together in one or two days.”

People are always welcome to attend, watch the races and talk with mushers. Admission is free, but donations are accepted to help with expenses, the organizers said.

More information is available on the Down East Sled Dog Club website, or by calling the Turners at 645-2864.

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A team of dogs races at one of the Down East Sled Dog Club’s annual races in Farmington.

A dog-sled racer crosses a field at one of the Down East Sled Dog Club’s races in Farmington.

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