American Dog Derby to move to Mesa Falls trails

Liz Stewart makes her way down the final stretch of the American Dog Derby’s six-dog race in Ashton in February 2016. The annual event will be held in Mesa Falls this year. The event is scheduled Friday and Saturday. Pat Sutphin / Post Register file

A lack of snow in Ashton means that the 101st annual American Dog Derby will be held in Mesa Falls this year.

The event is scheduled Friday and Saturday.

Mesa Falls’ snow proves abundant enough to ensure that sleds won’t be damaged, and that dogs won’t get overheated, said dog derby official John Scafe. He and the derby committee made the decision Feb. 6 to host the race at Mesa Falls.

“We are trying to get everything all finalized. The race will start right at the snowmobile parking lot,” he said.

From there mushers can race down two trails, one 11 miles long and the other 25 miles long.

“The change in venue for the dog derby races, it isn’t anything new,” Scafe said. “We moved them to Flag Ranch Road years ago. This year it’s been a struggle for everybody.”

In 2017, despite heavy snows that winter, the snow started to melt, causing Scafe to pray for snow. His prayers were answered in the form of temperatures cooling, and by race day there was still enough snow to put on the dog race inside Ashton — albeit with one less trail.

This year the derby is dedicated to the late Dave Harman, also known as “Rosie.”

“He was a great supporter of the dog races. He was a very good trainer for young kids. He was very knowledgeable about putting this race on. He was just a good friend to all the mushers,” Scafe said.

Scafe expects about 25 mushers to attend the annual event.

“We’ve got several mushers from Utah, Montana and Washington. It just seems like they’re coming in from all over because there’s a lack of snow elsewhere. We’re the only show in town, and it’s barely a show because of the snow,” he said.

Scafe also announced that Ann Stead, the dog trainer for the 1994 Disney movie “Iron Will,” plans to attend and to race for the second time. Last year Stead drove to Ashton from Minnesota with her dogs.

the Ashton Chamber of Commerce plans to celebrate the dog derby by hosting its fifth annual Soup Challenge from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the Ashton Library. It costs $2 to attend the Soup Challenge, with proceeds going toward the annual dog races.

Bowersox says she expects anywhere from 10 to 17 cooks to enter their homemade soups.

“They never tell us until the week before what they’re going to make. It usually runs the gamut of potato soup and a Mexican-themed soup. There is usually a chicken noodle and a cheesy broccoli soup,” she said.

“Visitors get to enjoy a sample of each soup, and that usually turns into dinner for everybody,” Bowersox said.

Bowersox says the get-together is a great way to bring residents and mushers together.

“It’s become a pretty good event. The community likes it, and the mushers like it. It’s become a thing people like to do here in Ashton. It’s one of our winter things,” she said.

On Saturday afternoon derby officials plan to host the annual Children’s Snowshoe Race, mutt race and weight pull at the high school field following registration scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. Traditionally those races are held on Main Street, Scafe said.

“I’d like to have it elsewhere, but this is the best we can do with the snow we’ve got,” he said.

For information check out the American Dog Derby’s Facebook page, visit or call 208-360-0988.