When Racing Dogs Bring a Community Together

Picture of the CAN-AM Sled Dog Races. Picture taken by Tiffany Smith.

March is the third month of the year.  It has 31 days, and is named after Mars, the Roman god of war.  But for Aroostook County, it is the month of the Can-Am Crown, the sled dog races in Fort Kent. Every year in the first week of March, all of Aroostook County gathers in Fort Kent for a weekend of excitement, friendships and dog races.

During this year’s race, there was a variety of racers from various U.S. States and Canadian provinces. Maine was represented by 16 racers divided between the three race categories of 30, 100 and 250 miles.

Who would have known that 27 years after the creation of the first ever Can-Am in 1993, that this event would end up being part of the culture of northern Maine? Events such as the Can-Am have shaped the culture of northern Maine and have defined a new image for the city of Fort Kent. The building of this new community surrounding the event has proven to be a great factor for driving economic activity and growth.

“Being from the area, I definitely see the community come together.  This event brings friends and family together, which is something that we truly need here in northern Maine,” Sarah Harris, a junior here at UMPI from Sinclair, Maine, said.

Community events are extremely important and sometimes necessary for the good health of the communities that host them. Festivals and community events in a sense resemble family reunions, where everyone is gathered together for the same purpose. Everyone gathers to enjoy this unique togetherness, to be entertained and escape the daily routine, to interact with people that they know or to re-new friendships and catch up on their news. The possibilities and the gains from a community festival are endless.

Community activities are a perfect image of our culture and economic environment here in the United States.  They grow, decline, they reshape and they act as a breathing and moving structure. They are like us humans: they have a set structure and purpose for a certain time.  And then they evolve, just like a new generation that comes in with new ideas and changes the future. The Can-Am follows this formula as well. It started as a purely racing event, and it developed into a community-wide collaboration that brings people together from many corners of the state, the U.S. and Canada.

Winter events are twice as important as summer events.  The first reason for this is that we need to find ways for entertainment besides plowing snow.  The second reason is that while we are immersed in the white and freezing Aroostook winter, community events are extremely needed to boost our excitement and our communication among one another.

Also, for all the dog fans out there who read this article, this is your event.  It is the time and place where dogs have the power to bring people together. Max Bushman, the WUPI station manager, can attest to the power of community events.  He said, “A small area is important to have the community to come out and socialize.  Due to our remoteness here in the County, community events are our driving force to bond together.”

Next year it will be the 30th year that the Can-Am will be active.  It will be another winter community event that will make Aroostook County shine and one that will make our long winter a little more enjoyable.