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CopperDog positively impacts Copper Country

CALUMET - In a sense, the CopperDog 150 is the Copper Country's Super Bowl.

And, just as Sunday's big game will impact its host city Indianapolis far beyond the game itself, the March 2 to 4 CopperDog will have a significant impact to the Copper Country beyond just a sled dog race, particularly in terms of community vitality.

And just like any major event that draws thousands of spectators, the CopperDog costs thousands of dollars to put on. Organizers are using the race's two previous years and their extensive combined event management background to ensure the $45,000-50,000 budget for the race is raised and used responsibly, ultimately benefiting the community in the long run.

"Sometimes people ask me, where does all the money go?" race director Todd Brassard said. "Fortunately, our Finance and Liability committee really knows what they are doing, and all of our records are in great shape."

The Finance and Liability committee is one of six committees which makes up the CopperDog 150 subcommittee of the promotions committee of Main Street Calumet, the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that ultimately oversees the event.

"Putting on the Copper Dog 150 - or any event - requires financial integrity. That is what our sponsors, donors, volunteers, participants and the public expect in addition to planning an exciting race and race-related activities," said Finance and Liability Chair Jo Cauvin, whose event management background includes an NCAA Final Four and Frozen Four, Junior Olympics and even working with the Super Bowl XL Host Committee. "Through careful budgeting and cash flow considerations, the CD 150 is strong and continues to grow."

Though the CopperDog's organization sounds like a complex hierarchy, it is actually an efficient managerial structure, ensuring detailed breakdowns of every aspect of the event. The other five CD 150 committees are sponsorship, community outreach/events, fundraising/merchandising, marketing/PR and race planning.

Race planning alone requires $39,135, including a $23,000 race purse; $4,000 for the snow road in downtown Calumet; $3,400 for veterinarians, medicine and race judges; plus money for trail grooming, snowmobile usage, an awards banquet, food charges, insurances, permits and more.

"It take a lot of money to have a dog race," summed up CD 150 treasurer Pam Hecht.

To determine the cost for this year's race, Hecht looked closely at last year's records and organized the expenses into each committee, then pressed each committee for more detail on each expense.

"We started back in early summer with each committee really looking at what they need for a budget to make their plans work for this race," she said. "By the end of December, all committees had a financial plan put together for me. At the present time I'm putting the final budget together for our club meeting in February."

Something perhaps surprisingly absent from that budget was labor.

"Some people out there think that the planners of the CD 150 somehow make money off the event," Brassard said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. The CD 150 is 100 percent staffed by volunteers."

Even still, with less than a month to go until the race, organizers have collected about $24,000 of the budgeted $32,000 in sponsorships. About 70 percent of the CD 150's total operating funds come from sponsorships, which are broken down into several levels depending on amount.

"Sponsorship and volunteers are the lifeblood of the CopperDog 150," sponsorship chair Abbey Green said. "Without the community leaders and our local businesses we would not be able to run an amazing event or promote economic vitality in the community like we do."

River Valley Bank is the CopperDog's marquee, or "Lead Dog," sponsor. Portage Health is a "Point Dog" sponsor, along with The Daily Mining Gazette, Wolf Radio and ABC10, whose collective media presence helps garner national recognition for an already popular regional race. Copper Country Rentals and AmericInn of Calumet help as "Wheel Dog" sponsors by providing free snowmobile rentals for trail workers and housing race officials and vets, respectively.

Countless other business have stepped forward to help with finances, logistics and promotion, and much of the sponsorship money comes in $200 to $300 at a time.

One business owner, Frank Fiala, who owns 5th & Elm Coffeehouses in Calumet and Houghton, has sponsored the race each year and has upped his commitment this year.

"I was one of the original planners for the race and from our experiences with sled dog racing when we lived in Alaska, (so) I knew firsthand what such an event could do for the local economy," Fiala said. "It has and it will only get better."

And the CopperDog is still looking for both sponsors and volunteers, both of whom can easily get involved online at

"This will be year three for the CopperDog and the event gets bigger and better every year. ... The (community) impact is substantial," said Tom Tikkanen, Main Street Calumet executive director. "We commend the hundreds of volunteers and all communities. This is truly a Keweenaw community effort."

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