SKOWHEGAN — Who let the dogs out Sunday morning in Coburn Park?

Alex Therriault of Ultimate Dog Sledding Experience, that’s who.

Close to 40 dogs, mostly Alaskan Huskies, howled, barked, yipped, yapped and jumped, straining to the sled leads as folks from all over central Maine lined up for free sled rides around the half-mile groomed trail at the park.

It was hard to tell who was having more fun Sunday — the dogs, who clearly loved their job, or the riders who got a winter tour of the wooded park near downtown Skowhegan.

“They like to run,” Therriault, of Oxford, said amid the canine cacophony, as the dogs lined up for another run around the park. “They’re excited. They just want to go. They want to go right now. They get all excited and make a little bit of this noise.”

Sunday’s events, which included the Paws To Pinnacle pet-friendly hike at Lake George Regional Park and a winter brunch walk at Lakewood Golf Course in Madison, were part of the three-day Somerset SnowFest.

Somerset SnowFest is the first year Lake George Regional Park has expanded its annual Winter Carnival and ice fishing derby to include events put on by Main Street Skowhegan. The Lake George winter carnival, now in its 27th year, was expanded in collaboration with Main Street, Eaton Mountain Ski Area, Coburn Park and the Lakewood Golf Course in Madison.

“It was fun,” said Karen Tobias, of the Shawmut section of Fairfield. “It was very exciting. I have never done this before — I loved the beautiful scenery going around the park.”

She brought along her son, Garrett, 9, too.

“It was really fun,” Garrett said after he and his mother stepped off one of the sleds. “I want to do it again.”

Therriault, 26, said he has been mushing sled dogs for as long as he can remember. He said his father has been doing it for more than three decades.

“I’ve got 38 (dogs) in the truck, but I’ve got 49, with puppies on the way,” he said. “They’re all mushers. Some retire eventually for a life of pampering. They just kind of relax, hang out. This is they’re favorite thing in the world.”

Teams of six dogs were harnessed to three toboggan sleds, designed to go over deep snow and to carry passengers.

“It’s busy,” he said. “It’s very popular. It’s nice. It’s a nice park.”

Austin Welch, 9, and his mother, Amanda Welch, both of Norridgewock, used the common word of the day — fun.

“It was really fun — it was different. We’ve never done that before,” Amanda Welch said. “I think we’d definitely do it again. It didn’t cost anything, and we didn’t realize how cold it was when we were doing it. It was cold today.”

Mary Haley, project coordinator for Main Street Skowhegan, said Sunday’s sled dog rides were a success and came on the heels of Saturday’s skijoring event at Eaton Mountain.

“It’s been a wild winter weekend,” she said. “It was incredible yesterday, because we had some challenging winds in the morning. The race went off without a hitch — it was great.”

She estimated that more than 500 spectators attended Saturday’s event.

“I just love their laughter,” she said of the yelping sled dogs. “It just feels good to have all this vibrancy in town for the weekend. We’re all kind of sick of winter. It feels good to have all this happening.”

Darryll White, chief administrator at Lake George Regional Park, said Saturday’s Winter Carnival events went well, in spite of the cold weather.

“We had a great day,” he said Sunday from the dog sled launch pad. “It was very cold and very windy. So all things considered, we were happy with the turnout.”

He said there were about 27 teams for the annual Box Sled Derby on Saturday, and the ice fishing derby had more than 60 entries in various categories.


Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]

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