Musher David Boyer of Sint-liguori, Quebec and his team of eager sled dogs take off from the starting gate on Main Street in Fort Kent during the Can-Am 100 mile race. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

FORT KENT, Maine – Excitement and dog barks filled downtown Fort Kent Saturday morning as more than a thousand spectators lined Main Street to witness mushers and their teams take off from the starting line of the 2023 Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races.

More than 60 mushers hit the trails of northern Maine for the Irving Woodlands Can-Am Crown 250, Willard Jalbert Jr. Can-Am Crown 100 and Pepsi/Native Dog Food Can-Am Crown 30. The competitors range in age from 13 to 68 and come from as far away as Minnesota and three Canadian provinces.

watch the races

Fans of New England’s longest sled dog race traveled hours to witness the competition, including Regina Phillips and Robin Talbot of Portland. The sisters made the five-hour trek north to watch Can-Am for the fifth year in a row.

“This is our winter fun,” Talbot said. “We don’t ski or snowmobile.”

Sisters Robin Talbot (left) and Regina Phillips warm up at Sami’s restaurant in Fort Kent while attending the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

Phillips and Talbot said their parents also joined them on a Can-Am excursion several years ago to cross an item off their father’s bucket list.

“It’s such a family affair and we have met many people here,” Talbot said. “Fort Kent and the people here, they’ve got to be the kindest people in the state; I truly believe that.”

The sisters said they appreciate the welcome reception they receive from the community and the sense of camaraderie among Can-Am fans.

“As a Black woman coming to Fort Kent and feeling so welcome, this means a lot,” Talbot said. “[Race] didn’t matter, nobody cared. There are not a lot of places where Black people feel comfortable when they come into a space like this.”  

The ladies said their positive view of Fort Kent extends to other parts of The County as well. They recounted a story from several years ago when friends of theirs were driving through Ashland to attend the Can-Am. The friends’ car broke down and an Ashland resident they had never met before not only stopped to help, but lent them a car to get to an auto parts store.

The Valley Unified school bus serves as a road block on Main Street during the Can-Am sled dog races. A Can-Am image is among St. John Valley scenes depicted on the bus. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

“Nowhere else on the planet will someone let you just take their car,” Talbot said.

Talbot and the other spectators can expect the mushers in the 30-mile race to begin crossing the finish line at Lonesome Pine Trails ski resort anytime after noon today.

The 100-mile teams could begin coming in sometime this evening.

Mushers in the 250-mile race usually arrive at the finish line sometime late Sunday evening or early Monday morning.

For more information about the Can Am Crown International Dog Sled Races, including a live link to follow the mushers’ progress, visit the organization’s website.