World Championship Sled Dog Derby festivities begin Thursday evening, first race is Friday morning

LACONIA —Festivities for the 2014 World Championship Sled Dog Derby begin on Thursday evening and will continue with races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Races will begin and end near the intersection of North Main Street and Parade Road, near the former state correctional facility. The public is welcome and encouraged to visit the races to cheer on the teams, or to attend the social gatherings in the evenings.

Mushers participating in the championship will gather at Patrick's Pub and Eatery in Gilford at 7 p.m. on Thursday for the unveiling of the 2014 button and the draw for the starting order.

Races will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday with the six-dog classic race, followed by the open class race at 1 p.m. A community social hour celebration will be held at Patrick's Pub at 7 p.m.

Saturday's competition will start with the six-dog classic at 9:30 a.m. The three-dog junior race will be held at noon and the open class will race at 1:30 p.m. The social gathering at Patrick's Pub will begin at 7 p.m.

Sunday will feature the final races of the championship, with the six-dog classic at 9:30 a.m., three-dog junior at noon, and at 1:30 p.m., the open class.

A food vendor will be on site at the start/finish line, and Laconia Country Club on Elm Street will be serving food from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Country Club will also be a great place for spectators to watch the teams of dogs as they race through the club's grounds. The awards ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Laconia Country Club.

Organizers expect a number of dignitaries to visit the championship. Governor Maggie Hassan will be in attendance on Saturday February 15, as will City of Laconia Mayor Ed Engler, and Mark Primeau, the president of Bank of NH, a prime sponsor of the derby. Miss Lakes Region Kendall Wipff will be singing the Canadian and American National Anthems on Friday an Sunday and Kayla Frank will be singing the National Anthems for Saturday's ceremony of events.