GRAND MARAIS, Mich. (WLUC) - Grand Marais is a snowmobile destination in the Upper Peninsula, but this upcoming weekend, people will be in town for a different event. Hundreds of people will come to Grand Marais to witness the U.P. 200 - an Iditarod qualifying sled dog race.
"It's usually a pretty big event, draws people in here from the sled dog supporters, Iditarod followers, as well as just tourists that kind of have it on their bucket list as something they want to see in the U.P., so they come here to see it," explained Elizabeth Allen, Grand Marais Tavern manager.
For both Grand Marais Tavern and The Dunes Motel, sledders are their most frequent customers, as Grand Marais boasts the Crazy 8's, a trail system more than 125 miles long, but this weekend they're preparing for even more visitors.
"I know my snowmobile customers purposely booked this weekend because they think it's just awesome. They enjoy it, everyone in town enjoys it. It brings a whole different layer of people on top of the snowmobilers we already have," said Aleta Hubbard, Dunes Motel owner and Grand Marais Chamber of Commerce President. "For that weekend, I've been full for almost three weeks already, and the phone's been ringing off the hook all morning, so we're still turning people away."
Grand Marais is a big part of the event, serving as the midpoint and checkpoint headquarters of the race, where mushers and their dogs can rest and refuel before heading back to Marquette.
"It's just a really cool event. I go down there myself just to see the dogs, you know, and watch them come in. It's really cool," Hubbard said.
It's events like the U.P. 200 that put Grand Marais on the map for people to visit year-round.
"It's a boost for our economy in the winter and it's a boost for Grand Marais itself. You get people to come see it and then they're like, 'Oh I wonder what this place is like in the spring, the fall, the summer, and then they come back for that," said Allen.