Sled dog race nixed - ‘Crazy winter’ causes derby cancelation

By Roger Amsden

LACONIA — "This is the craziest winter I've ever seen. It's the winter that wasn't," said Dave Emerson of Emerson Aviation, the official ice-out observer for Lake Winnipesaukee.
Emerson wasn't surprised by the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club's announcement that the 87th annual World Championship Sled Dog Derby, scheduled to be held Feb. 12-14, has been canceled.
"I've never seen it like this. There's no significant snow on the ground anywhere. And the Broads on Lake Winnipesaukee are wide open. It's going to be the first winter since 2001 that the Broads don't freeze over," said Emerson.
The lack of solid ice cover on Lake Winnipesaukee has caused the postponement of the Great Rotary Fishing Derby from Feb. 13-14 to Feb. 27-28. And the New England Pond Hockey Classic, scheduled for this weekend in Meredith, has been moved from Meredith Bay to Lake Waukewan due to poor ice conditions.
Jim Lyman, president of the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club, explained the decision to cancel the derby.
"The lack of snow and the warm weather scheduled for the coming week are without a doubt the determining factors. Warm weather in the high 30s and no major snow in the forecast will not allow the Sled Dog Club trail crew to establish and maintain a safe World Championship trail," he said.
The sled dog race tradition in Laconia dates back to 1931, when the city hosted its first race. In 1936 the name of the race was changed to the Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby.
With war clouds on the horizon, the race was canceled in 1938 and sled dog racing didn't return to Laconia until 1956, when it was brought back by the Belknap County Sportsmen's Association.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the race was a major annual event and drew many presidential candidates to the start-finish line in downtown Laconia. But numerous cancelations due to poor snow conditions over the years and the difficulty of bringing snow into the downtown area for a course on North Main Street led moving the starting line first to Opechee Park and later to Old North Main Street across from the former Laconia State School property.
Even though the race has been canceled, the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club will still host a raffle to support future races. Tickets to win $2,000, $1,000 or $500 are $100 each, with only 100 tickets to be sold. The drawing will take place Friday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m., at the Christmas Island Steak House, 644 Weirs Blvd., Laconia.
Tickets may be purchased from club members or by calling 524-4314.

Jeb Bush touts his experience as NH primary draws near

LACONIA — Speaking to some 150 people gathered at the Margate Resort last evening, Jeb Bush said that he has come to New Hampshire “to show my heart, my spine and my mind at as many town halls as I can.”
Once the presumed favorite for the Republican presidential nomination, with just five days until the New Hampshire Primary, Bush has yet to gain momentum. He left Iowa with less than 3 percent of the vote in the caucuses and polls show him only flirting with double digits in New Hampshire.
Bush rattled off his achievements during his two terms as governor of Florida, which included cutting taxes by $19 billion and trimming the state workforce by 11 percent, and said that other candidates also promise to reduce taxes and shrink government. “But, you can’t just talk about it,” he continued. “You have to have the experience.”
Recalling he was impressed by Barack Obama’s rhetoric in 2008, Bush said that the failures of his presidency reflect his lack of experience of leadership.
“First you have to listen, then you learn,” he said, “and then you’re ready to lead.” He remarked that “the lesson of last eight years is that a president cannot provide leadership by “pushing other people down to make himself look good.”
By the same token, alluding to Donald Trump, whose presence has overshadowed the race for the GOP, he said that leadership does not consist of disparaging and insulting others.
Asked how he would make difficult decisions, Bush began by stressing “humility” in the sense of “knowing what you don’t know.” Next he said that a leader reaches out to those individuals with the deepest understanding of the issue at hand along with the best ideas for resolving it.
“You cannot operate in a bubble,” he said. And he concluded with prayer, explaining that “my faith informs my life.”
“This is not about me,” Bush said. “It is about whether this country will lead the world for the next generations.” That, he said will require a president who will lead through strength. “You’re looking at that guy, by the way,” he remarked.

Jeb Bush speaks at the Margate.

Jeb Bush speaks to a group at the Margate Wednesday night. (Michael Kitch photo/Laconia Daily Sun)

Candidates make last-chance pitches to Lakes Region voters


Marco Rubio in Laconia

LACONIA — "This election is not like any other," Marco Rubio told a crowd that filled the Belknap Mill to capacity and beyond yesterday. "It is an referendum on our identity as a nation and a people."

Fresh from his strong showing in Iowa, where he captured nearly a quarter of the vote in the caucuses and joined Donald Trump and Ted Cruz at the front of the Republican presidential field, Rubio looks to confirm his position as the most electable alternative to the most controversial and most conservative candidates in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary next week.

Rubio reaffirmed the exceptional character of the United States, then, sounding an ominous note, warned that "The things that made us special are slipping away. We are on the verge of being a great nation in decline, and it began with the election in 2008." President Obama, he said, has sought "to change America." But he protested to clamorous applause "We don't want to be like the rest of the world. We want to be the United States of America."

"Our greatest days are before us," Rubio said, "but only if we make the right choice. Anger is not a plan. Frustration is not a plan," he explained, offering himself as the one candidate who can unite both the conservative movement and the Republican Party. ""If we are not together, we won't win,"

Rubio emphasized that among all the candidates for the GOP nomination, he was the one the Democrats feared the most. "They do not want to run against me," he said. "But, I can't wait to run against Hillary Clinton."

After taking the oath of office, Rubio said he would go straight to the Oval Office in the White House where right away he would repeal all the "illegal" executive orders issued by President Obama, revoke the "crazy EPA rules," halt federal intervention in public education and scrap the nuclear accord with Iran. He also vowed to repeal Obamacare and "put you back in charge of your health care decisions." And he said he would lower taxes and ease regulations to spur economic growth and reduce the national debt.

Rubio said that, as a Cuban-American, his experience with the issues arising from immigration is unmatched.

"I live it every day," he said. "Nothing can happen until illegal immigration is under control," he insisted.

To ensure terrorists do not enter the country in the guise of immigrants or refugees, he said entry would be denied to anyone whose identity could be be verified and purpose could not be confirmed. He emphasized that he would oppose granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. Finally, he said that the entire immigration process must be reformed, proposing a system based on "merit," or what the individual immigrant would contribute to the country. "Are you coming to be an American or are you coming to live here," he said, "are two different things."

As president, Rubo said would "rebuild" the armed forces, which he claimed have been shrunken in numbers and weakened in strength by the Obama Administration, despite the severe threats posed by hostile states like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran and terrorist organizations like ISIS. The world, he stressed, is less dangerous and more peaceful when the United States is the strongest military power in it.

Returning to his candidacy, Rubio assured the crowd, "If you vote for me, we will win this election."