‘Bringing Back History’: Dog Sled Racing Returns to Lake Minnetonka

by | Feb 2020

Mike Bestgen, one of the mushers in the Klondike Dog Derby, and two of his sled dogs.

Mike Bestgen, one of the mushers in the Klondike Dog Derby, and two of his sled dogs. Photo: Rachel Nadeau

Watch the first local dog sled race in over 85 years.

With the holidays freshly passed and winter at its peak, Lake Minnetonka-area residents are looking for new (and old) ways to enjoy the great outdoors. This month, Lake Minnetonka will host an event that harkens back centuries and is growing popular again. On February 9, the Klondike Dog Derby will kick off: 40 teams of eight sled dogs and a musher each will race around Excelsior and the lake.

Bethany Hway, founder of the Klondike Dog Derby, began planning more than two years ago. She built a board of 11 members who helped her coordinate the logistical challenges.

“My inspiration came from wanting to bring sled racing here,” Hway says. She raced as a child and grew up competing, watching races and being involved in dog sled racing culture. She’s competed in many professional races and it’s something she wants to bring back home. Her father competed in the Iditarod, the famous Alaskan race. She also wanted to bring back a part of history—this isn’t the first time Lake Minnetonka has hosted a sled dog race.

In the 1930s, Klondike Day was a local event that included ski races, coronations and a dog derby. This was the start of sled dog racing in the Lake Minnetonka area, and it was revived again in the 1970s.

Planning for the event included finding mushers, mapping the route, fundraising, finding sponsors, working with the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce, hosting events and more. The planning and managing will continue on the day of the race, but Hway says it’s all worth it.

“We are bringing history back to the lake,” she says. It’s going to be a highlight of winter for her.

On February 8, the day before the race, the public is welcome to visit Lord Fletcher’s, where the dogs competing in the race will have their veterinary checks from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and participate with their mushers in a Meet-the-Musher and Hug-the-Husky event at 3 p.m.

Klondike Dog Derby
February 9
Kick-off ceremony 9:30 a.m.; race start 10 a.m.
Downtown Excelsior
For a detailed schedule and more info, visit klondikedogderby.com.


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