Carriages add new dimension to traditional winter rally

Feb. 13—IRON RIVER — Lack of snow has led to the cancelation of numerous events this winter, but the

Northwoods Harness Club

held its 35th annual sleigh and cutter rally Feb. 4 at the Northern Pines Golf and Event Center in Iron River.

Exhibitors expanded their options at this year's event due to the slight snow cover, adding carriages and wagons to the mix.

"We had our sleigh ready to go and our carriage was also shined up. It was not until the last minute that we decided on our cart, which is built with motorcycle tires and moves great on the little bit of snow we had left," said Talia Martens of Brule.

Instead of sleigh rides, the Anderson family from Ironwood, Michigan chose to offer free rides in a wagon. Kerri Kindt, a dog musher, put shafts on her dog sled, which was pulled by a 9-year-old donkey named Ava. Event coordinator Janet Martens said the only members to drive a sleigh were Thomas Olthafer and his wife, Sheri Houtakker, from Cadotte, Wisconsin.

An estimated 800 spectators attended the rally, which included a petting zoo, display of vintage carriage and sleigh items and a 50/50 raffle. In addition to Northern Pines Golf and Event Center and the Iron River Chamber of Commerce, nearly every business in the area — from Iron River and Brule to Ashland and Bayfield — helped.

"We are a collection of very small but powerfully generous communities that often get overlooked. I hope this event will help put us on the map," Janet Martens said. "We also received many out-of-state sponsors, for which we are very grateful."

The club, which dates back to 1980, has about 60 members. Winners of the event, the first to be held in Iron River, were as follows:

Our future, the youth division: First place, Parker Jeske, 12, from Ironwood, Michigan with a team of Percherons, Mary and Shirley; second place, Morgan Martens, 18, a junior at Northwestern High School driving Echo, a 15-year-old paint quarter horse; third place, Hannah Rusch, 12, driving a 4-year-old Morgan cross mare, My Friend Flicka; fourth place, Paisleigh Weber-Anderson, 6, of Ironwood, Michigan driving Misty the pony.

People's choice: Hannah Rusch and My Friend Flicka.

Best single draft: Thomas Olthafer and wife Sheri Houtakker of Cadotte, Wisconsin in a sleigh pulled by Tangl, a 22-year-old Belgian/quarter horse.

Best single horse: Bobbie Janeen Kleffman from Grand Rapids, Minnesota driving JSM Nibbs, a 17-year-old Morgan mare.

Best single large pony: Alicia Rose Schaffer driving Little Joe, a 20-year-old pony cross gelding.

Best single small pony: Candy Kessey-Hankins in a Portland carriage pulled by 23-year-old quarter pony mare Buggy.

Best small equine: Sue Lockling driving Mro Blizzard.

Best long ears: Jenny Wettersten of Grand Rapids, Minnesota driving a 19-year-old male donkey, Jack, owned by Bobbie Kleffman.

Best multiple large pony: Julie Dahlberg of Solon Springs driving Jesse James and Little Joe, Percheron and Hackney/Arabian cross ponies.

Best multiple horse: Larry Peterson in a Pacific Marathon Carriage driving Morgan cross geldings Thunder and Thor.

Best multiple draft: Charlie Singler and Deb Rock from Ashland driving 7-year-old geldings Bob and Bill.

Northwoods special: Alana Maijala driving Little Nugget, a 9-year-old standard donkey.

Best costume, female driver: Kate An Hunter driving her 17-year-old paint, Atlan.

Best costume male driver: Jim Block driving Morgan gelding Cory.

Best utility vehicle: Theresa Anderson driving Percheron mares Mary and Shirley.

Best vehicle: Bethann Perendy in a push sleigh from Friesland, Holland.

Most authentic: Kerry Kindt in an antique dog sled pulled by Ava, a 9-year-old donkey. Kindt wore her father's 10th Mountain Division anorak as a memorial to his comrades who gave their lives while serving in northern Italy during World War II.