Skiing Fans Gather For Annual American Birkebeiner Kick-Off

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: February 24, 2018 06:48 PM

HAYWARD - Nordic skiers and fans from all over the nation gathered Thursday for the largest cross country ski marathon in the country, the 44th annual American Birkebeiner in Hayward.

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The four day Nordic skiing event is packed with families and fans supporting the popular winter sport. People from 49 states and 36 countries are participating in the event, totaling up to 13,500 skiers.

Birkiebeiner attendees were ready with bells, cameras, and energy to cheer on participants. After the Barkie Birkie Skijor ended, the kids were off skiing at the Barnebirkie and the Junior Birkie.

Ben Popp, the executive director of the American Birkebeiner was excited to see all the participants enjoy the race.

"The first thousand kids come chomping through back here with the smiles on their faces and the hot cocoa smeared everywhere when they're done, and again that’s an experience, a memory they won't forget and hopefully they tie that to being active outside and it’s something they'll remember for the rest of their lives," Popp said.

Proud dad Ryan Hexum was cheering on his kids, Brianna and Griffin, as they slid down the hill for the Barnebirkie.

"We'd come down to watch and as soon as they were old enough we asked if she wanted to do it, she did, and she's done it every year since and it’s been a lot of fun," Ryan Hexum said.

It was Brianna's fifth year participating. She looks forward to it every year.

"Going down the big hill, flying down the big hill it was really fun,” Brianna Hexum said.

"I love seeing all the community members and family members that we know and everyone coming down with all their kid, it’s just a lot of fun, " Ryan Hexum said.

It was three-year-old Weston Wojtowizz’s first time participating at the Barnebirkie. Skiing runs in Weston's family, they all participate at the event.

Clark Reinke, A Birkebeiner attendee, enjoyed watching his grandson, Weston, participate. "There's such a great spirit and culture of cross country skiing and it’s good to be around people that share that and for us it’s a family event too as well," Reinke said.

The popular event brings families and the community together to enjoy the popular winter sport. The kick off for the 55 kilometer Nordic skiing begins Saturday. It starts from Cable, Wisconsin and ends at Hayward, Wisconsin.

There's an expo people can visit at Hayward High School until Friday. There is also a special screening of a documentary called, "Saving Snow." The documentary is about the effect of climate change and will be screening throughout the four day event.



Alejandra Palacios

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