Community of Hayward Braces for the Birkie

Julie Kruse
February 13, 2017 10:03 PM

It's less than two weeks until the largest cross-country ski marathon in North America which happens to be right in our backyard. The American Birkebeiner starts in Cable, Wisconsin, ends in Hayward and brings nearly $15 million to the area.

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With an estimated 40,000 people expected during the weekend, it takes a small village to get everything ready. More than 2,000 volunteers work tirelessly, including Joel Harrison, the co-owner of New Moon Ski and Bike.

"We stop getting enough sleep sometime in early January," Harrison said. "Most of our friends are working their regular jobs, volunteering, might be waxing skis, might be hosting international families. It's a crazy week."

New this year is the Birkie start is no on private land that the foundation owns. Executive Director Ben Popp says thanks to fundraising efforts, they were able to purchase the land.

"It's also a year-round trail head, so people can think of it as a park," Popp said. "Tthey can ski and bike and run from it."

In addition, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation received a $12,450 Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism for its Kortelopet cross-country ski race marketing campaign.

Popp says the grant will go towards promoting an active lifestyle, especially for the youth.

"Getting kids excited and learning about skiing and biking and running in gym class as opposed to a ball sport," Popp said. "If you learn it when you're five, you're more likely to continue when you're 35."

It's all in an effort to inspire others to join the sport.

"It can difficult physically, it can be difficult to get here, it can be difficult to get on the snow enough, but it's always worth coming up because you get to see old friends and you get to see some amazing skiing," Harrison concluded.

The race starts on Saturday, February 25 at 8:45 a.m. with several events leading up to it.

The full schedule can be found here.


Julie Kruse

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