The Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race Committee has once again raised its purse, maintaining the race’s money pot as the second highest in the state for sled dog racing behind the Iditarod.
The 2017 purse totals $150,000. That’s $20,000 more than this year’s race and is the fourth time in five years the purse has increased. The committee is also extending payouts from 20th position to 25th.
Race Manager Zach Fansler says the race has attracted more sponsors while receiving higher contributions from current sponsors. At the same time, the larger purse raises the race’s profile, attracting checkbooks.
“So you sign up new sponsors who want to get involved with something that’s successful. Luckily it’s been a pattern that’s repeated itself, and we want to continue to have that pattern,” Fansler said.
Fansler also says the race requires little overhead, mostly due to a large volunteer network and sponsor donations.
And as the status of the race climbs, so do the stakes.
Race Chairman Myron Angstman partly attributes the growing purse to the committee’s decision to drop this year’s 14th place finisher Marin Buser to last place without pay for taking an alternative route and letting kids feed his dogs at a checkpoint.
“The purse is getting bigger; the attention to the race is getting bigger; and we do take rule violations seriously,” Angstman said.
Angstman says gone are the days when the committee can let minor infractions go without comment.
Ultimately, Fansler says the purse increase aligns with the race’s mission to promote the sport of dog mushing.
“To run a competitive team,” Fansler said, “you need to be training and be dedicated, have your diets figured out, have a program and be selectively breeding. The purses have to go up for the races so mushers can continue to do [the sport].”
The committee is also raising the purses for all its other races including the Akiak Dash and the Bogus Creek 150. Amounts will be announced later this year.
Meanwhile, the annual February 50 sled dog race is starting this Saturday at 11 a.m. at the mouth of the Bethel Small Boat Harbor. Fansler says the committee chose the date to coincide with another, less Alaskan, sport.
“Super Bowl 50 will be on Sunday. We’ll have our race on Saturday. You can come out and enjoy them both if you’re a fan, or if you’re a musher you can participate in the February 50,” he said.
The purse for that race totals $12,500.