What an auspicious start, we thought, as we watched the bald eagle flying low over the parking lot.
It was Race Day at the Blackfoot Recreation Day, and the event was the Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival. The Waskahegan Trail Association has volunteered in the festival ever since its inception.
And for us, this year’s Birkie was especially sweet.
At the volunteer orientation a few days before, the Waskahegan Trail Association, and our long-time member and volunteer Oscar Zawalsky in particular, were recognized by the Canadian Birkebeiner Society for providing 34 consecutive years of food station service. (We think it’s been 38 years, so maybe they omitted the years that the festival was cancelled.)
Anyway, no other group or individual can make that claim.
Oscar was given a framed print of a section of trail in the Blackfoot Recreation Area. The print was made by local artist Brian Lucas, who three years ago had won the award for the skier “who best represents the spirit of the Birkebeiner.”
Race day was great for our group of eight volunteers—mild weather, almost no wind, and intermittent sunshine. But for the skiers, not quite so great. The track was rather icy, but still not as much as we’ve seen in some years.
Our “Last Chance” food station saw 237 participants in the 13 km event, most of whom stopped for the snacks and beverages we provided. Our food station is at the halfway point for these skiers and it is their only option for a break. Since the skiers invariably seem to come all at once, there was a while when we were all going full tilt!
A big change for our crew this year was dealing with only the one race segment, as the course was significantly altered on the 31 km route, bypassing Meadow Shelter. Although this resulted in a much shorter day, our team will welcome resuming our usual double-duty efforts next year.