Georgia's annual dog sled event was delayed due to Atlanta's first white Christmas since 1882. "In the south, competitors customize their sleds with wheels, making it dangerous to compete in icy conditions" explains organizer Tim Downs. "This should make the history books: the first sledding event that was ever canceled due to snow."
Augusta native Billy Bob Simmons was the brainchild of the event. As the first southerner to ever compete in Alaska's world-famous Iditarod, he loved the sport, but was shocked at the conditions.
"It's cold up there!" observed Billy Bob. "Dog sledding is great fun, but what idiot wants to compete in an open-vehicle race in sub-zero degree weather? My beer froze half-way through the first day. No wonder they can't recruit cheerleaders - they'd have to wear overcoats. What fun is that?"
So Billy Bob recruited organizer Tim Downs and met with wealthy sponsors to bring the Iditarod to Georgia. "The paved Silver Comet Trail runs 100+ miles along an old train line from Atlanta to Montgomery," says Downs. "With mild weather and breathtaking scenery, it provides the perfect setting for the event."
Actor Burt Reynolds emceed the first Y'all-Ditarod in 1998. Although he seemed like the perfect pick, with both national recognition and ties to Georgia films such as "Deliverance," Reynolds embarrassed sponsors when he was caught running moonshine across state lines with his sponsored sled.
"In the early years, we held it in the summer, but the sweltering heat made the Huskies miserable," reflected Billy Bob. "So we moved it to Christmas. After that, people began to experiment with different breeds. West Georgia University assembled the first hound dog team in year 2000, but they kept running out of bounds to chase squirrels. Billy Bob's girlfriend, Daisy, came up with the idea of dangling a small possum in front of the hounds to keep them motivated and on track. Since 2002, Possum Navigation(R) has become the industry standard.
Georgia Tech's "Rambling Wreck" entry, constructed with a super lightweight Aluminum Lithium alloy developed for space shuttles, won last year.
Dog Sledding for the Rest of Us
So if icy weather and expensive travel doesn't appeal to you, consider taming your dog-sled fever in the comfort of the southeast. Not only can you enjoy your beer in liquid state, but the cheerleaders are gorgeous. Event rescheduled for April 1.