Birkie officials busy prepping for 40-year celebrationThe days leading up to the American Birkebeiner cross-country skiing marathon from Cable to Hayward are always hectic, but even more so this year.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
The days leading up to the American Birkebeiner cross-country skiing marathon from Cable to Hayward are always hectic, but even more so this year.
That’s because event officials are putting the final touches on the Birkie’s 40th-year celebration. They want to do it up big, and they want to do it up right in preparation for Saturday’s race.
“Everyone is gone from the office right now because they’re all getting ready to put the race on,” said Birkie media director Susan Kendrick. “It’s been crazy.”
A record 10,000 skiers are registered for Saturday and 13,000 for the entire three-day event.
Workers were scheduled to begin laying snow onto Main Street on Wednesday night for today’s opening races and activities. Conditions should be close to optimal Saturday so long as too much snow doesn’t fall on race day (the weather forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of snow).
The Birkie kicks off with the popular Barnebirkie races for kids at 12:30 p.m. today. Special this year is the “Nikkerbeiner” 5K, which requires wooden skis to honor the Birkie’s history. Skiers also are encouraged to wear retro gear. Prizes will be awarded for best costume.
“The only thing required is wooden skis, but other than that, we’re encouraging people to wear knickers, wool socks and sweaters and bamboo poles,” Kendrick said. “Whatever they can scare up. The Nikkerbeiner is a big part of what we’re doing for our 40th year.”
While the American Birkebeiner is celebrating its 40th year, the race is based on history that goes back 800 years.
In 2006, Norwegian warriors smuggled the son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg to safety. The warriors were called Birkebeiners because the protective birch bark leggings they wore. The American Birkebeiner honors that history by having cross county skiers re-enact the legend each year, with the team of Tom Lawn of Plymouth, Wis., along with Chris Lawn and Lori House, both of Madison, being this year’s participants.
In addition, Sam (Eric) Ersson of Sweden, who won the inaugural Birkie in 1973, covering 48 kilometers in 2 hours, 48 minutes, 16 seconds, is expected to be on hand this week and will light the torch tonight as part of the opening ceremonies.
The Birkie has also brought back its post-race party on Saturday and will host a “Blast with the Past” event today where 300 people who put in an rsvp can meet former champions and board members at Telemark Lodge in Cable.
“We’ve got all kinds of special things planned for our 40th year,” Kendrick said.