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Choccolocco Park to Host State’s First Sled Dog Dace

Choccolocco Park to Host State’s First Sled Dog Dace


Choccolocco Park found itself on the sporting map the last year with international and amateur softball events as well as the education-based Greenpower motorized Grand Prix races.

Next weekend, it will host Alabama’s first officially sanctioned sled dog race.

Does James Spann know something he’s not telling us?

As it turns out, this event doesn’t require snow and ice. Called the Choccolocco Dryland Mushing Challenge, it’s officially sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association. It will be held Jan. 14-15 with races beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday.

Prospective entrants have until 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8 to register online at events.bytepro.net.

Laura Stierman is a resident of Oxford who founded the Cheaha Mushing Club because she “needed to have an Alabama-based sanctioned club by ISDRA in order to have a race sanctioned by them.”

“Once that was done, I began looking for race sponsors,” she said.

Stierman said this first attempt to bring the sport to Oxford has more to do with testing the interest and the field of play and not with the immediate idea of being “spectator-friendly.”

“There are people from five different states who are now committed to coming,” she said.

Stierman said she has been involved in the sport for three years “non-competitively just as a way to work my dogs.”

“We have a large sister group in Georgia and we went over there for the longest time,” she said. “The first race they held was in February 2022 and we participated in that race.”

Stierman said she was training in Choccolocco Park before that race.

“It was then I got the idea of doing a race here,” she said. “I have since grown our local club from just me to about ten of us now.”

She said the races will involve registered breeds such as Siberians and Malinois.

“But a lot of us here in the South just run what we have,” Stierman said. “I currently have two cattle dogs and am raising two short-haired pointer puppies.”

She added there are enough “mushers” between Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee that “we are able to pull enough weight in ISDRA where some of the northern-based racers have to come down here.”

“ISDRA has a point system and you have to earn enough points to get on Team USA and then go on to the world competition,” Stierman said. “We are hoping to eventually bring Team USA names here for competition.”

The typical stereotype of sled dogs is that of a string of dogs mushing over inches of snow-covered areas.

“The dry ground racing started as a way to keep sled dogs fit during the warmer months,” Stierman explained. “Northerners can typically run on dirt roads, dirt tracks or grassy field areas.”

Stierman said the Choccolocco Park races will utilize the cross-country trails and some of the disc golf course.

She said there are currently 18 drivers registered for the Oxford event.


By Brian Graves, Star Staff Writer, bgraves@annistonstar.com

  • Jan 6, 2023