Iron Dog course change hurts Big Lake businesses

Published: Jan. 23, 2019 at 6:56 PM AKST
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The Big Lake business Aardvark Catering/Pizza Thyme moved to a new building in September, a location that boasts a full service restaurant and a fully-stocked bar, and sits next to Big Lake's south port marina.

That's the usual starting point for the Iron Dog, the world's longest snow machine race. It's an event that brings thousands to Big Lake every year, but this year's race has been moved due to concerns about the thickness of ice.

Even though restaurant owners Sherman and Gena Weinberger-Caruthers will miss out on the crowd-fueled profits at their new location, they understand the decision to move the race to a safe location.

"I'd hate to see something happen on the ice," Sherman said. "I'd rather the race be back next year than be scrubbed entirely because we had a bad situation out there."

His wife agrees, but both understand the importance of events like this for small businesses in Big Lake.

"We'll miss the money. It helps a lot of businesses in Big Lake once the water freezes and the parks slow down," Gena said. "Iron Dog gets a lot of us out of the winter time okay."

Right down the road, Big Lake Family Restaurant will also be looking to make up for business that usually comes with the Iron Dog event.

"With things happening like this with the earthquake, it kind of affects people driving out here and giving us that word of mouth advertising," said Ruben Gutierrez.

The Iron Dog has drawn crowds upwards of 10,000 strong in the past. This year, they'll have to watch the race start from Willow, at Deshka Landing.

Iron Dog events kick off on Feb. 15.