Updated: Sep 13
Today, we're chatting with Caroline Melberg, founder of Maveriiick, a performance growth company, and co-chair of the Dachshund Races and Doggy Olympics at James J. Hill Days in Wayzata, Minnesota. This delightful event is made possible by the Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce. In addition to Maveriiick, other sponsors include Pet Suites of America - the Dachshund Race presenting sponsor - as well as Adventure Is Barking, Chuck & Don's, Dog Training Elite Twin Cities, Pet Wants Minneapolis, Wayzata Lions Club, and Wayzata Pet Hospital.
In this interview, Caroline gives us an insider look into Wayzata's dog-tastic event that has captured the hearts of dachshund owners and dog lovers alike. From its humble beginnings in 1985 to its current status as a must-see spectacle, this race has grown in leaps and bounds—sometimes quite literally! The event is more than just a race; it's a two-day celebration of all things canine. So, sit, stay, and enjoy learning about an event that turns every dog into a star and every spectator into a fan.
Sponsorship Impact: Sponsors like Maveriiick, along with the Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce, play crucial roles in enriching the event through gift baskets, dog training demos, and more.
Inclusivity: The event not only features races for dachshunds but also welcomes all breeds and sizes of dogs to attend, making it a comprehensive celebration for dog lovers.
Celebratory Atmosphere: From spectator caricatures to doggy kissing booths, the event creates an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment for all attendees.
Q: Can you tell us about the origin and inspiration behind the dachshund races, and how it has grown since its inception?
A: The first races were held in 1985. The races at that time were held at Wayzata Middle School and included Sprints, Belly Scratcher Hurdles, and Couch Races (where the dachshunds ran down the track and jumped into their owner’s lap on a couch).
The races were the brainchild of Spencer Holmes, a dermatologist in Wayzata at the time who had a dachshund and thought it would be a fun community activity to get a group of dachshunds together to race.
Spencer enlisted the help of a local area veterinarian, Sam Allen, to be on-hand to perform “pre-race check-ins”. Sam’s wife Jan Allen selected the music for the event and served as sound coordinator. Judge Bruce Willis, with his big, baritone voice was the announcer and his wife, Beth Willis was the statistician keeping track of scoring.
They had around 20 dachshunds in that first race. Over the years we have seen the dachshund population ebb and flow – to one point where we had over 100 dachshunds participating. This year we have 30 dachshunds registered, and we’ll see that number grow with day-of registrations.
The races moved down to Lake Street in 2012 to allow for more accessibility and larger crowds to watch this fun event. In 2014 the races moved to the Depot in Wayzata on the grassy lawn, and then with the completion of Panoway in 2021 (Wayzata’s Lake preservation and beautification project), we moved the races to Panoway Plaza where the races are held today.
Q: What makes the James J. Hill Days Dog Park a special location for dog lovers, especially during the races?
A: Wayzata is a very dog-friendly community, and we have a large number of sponsors from local dog-related businesses who come out in full force with treats and games for all the dogs in attendance.
We’ve expanded the dog-related events to include not just the dachshund races on Saturday [September 9, 2023], but a variety of fun activities including dog training, pet caricatures, K9 officer demonstrations, our doggy kissing booth, and Doggy Olympics over the course of our now two-day event.
We see dogs of all size and type and every breed imaginable attending James J. Hill Days with their families, and there’s no better place for every dog lover to enjoy a dog-gone good time!
Q: Could you describe the three events—Sprints, Hurdles, and the Costume Contest? What can participants and spectators expect from each?
The Dachshund Racetrack is 50 feet long.
For the Sprints and the Belly Scratcher Hurdles events, each dachshund must be accompanied by two handlers -- one at the starting line, and one at the finish line.
The handler at the starting line must stand behind the starting line and release their dachshund when the race announcer signals "go!"
The handler at the finish line must stand back behind the finish line, without crowding right up to it -- as to qualify each dachshund must fully cross the finish line to win. Handlers can encourage their dogs with treats and toys, but must stay behind the finish line, and catch their dachshund once he or she has crossed the line.
For the Sprints, we organize the dachshunds into heats of three dogs each. First dachshund to cross the finish line wins. The winner of each heat progresses to the semi-finals, and the winners from the semi-finals progress to the finals where 3rd, 2nd and 1st place winners are decided.
The Belly Scratcher Hurdles event is similar, with the added complexity of each dog having to leap over tiny, dachshund-sized hurdles before crossing the finish line.
If you've ever seen dachshunds race, you know that they don't always run in a straight line! Therefore, we make sure our audience of racing spectators crowds closely to the sides of the racetrack, and they sometimes need to "catch" any dachshund that tries to escape the track.
Winners are decided in the same format as the Sprints.
We take a slight break between the Belly Scratcher Hurdles event and the Costume Contest to allow our participants time to cool down and get into costume. Each participating dachshund then parades in a circle around the dachshund track while our announcer reads fun facts about each dog and describes the costume they are wearing.
At the end of the event, prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place are awarded to the lucky winners for each of the three events. Sprints and Hurdles winners are determined by time to cross the finish line. Costume Contest winners are decided based on audience applause for each participant. All judges' decisions are final.
Q: How does the registration process work, and how can Dachshund owners register multiple pets?
A: Registration is simple and can be done online at JamesJHillDays.com. We also accept day-of registrations up until 11:30am on the day of the race. Dachshund owners can register as many dachshunds as they would like, and they can choose to participate in one, two, or all three of the events when they register.
Q: Are there specific rules or guidelines that participants should be aware of for the races and the costume contest?
Beyond the rules for the races I’ve shared above, the only other qualification is that the dog must be a dachshund in order to participate. There are many types of dachshunds including Standard (16 – 32 pounds) or miniature (11 pounds or less) and come in three different coat types: smooth, wirehaired or longhaired. All are qualified to participate in the dachshund races.
Q: What can spectators expect at the event? Are there any special amenities or activities for those who come to watch?
A: There are so many fun activities for spectators – the race itself is the highlight of our two-day event and is held on Saturday (this year the 9th – always the weekend after Labor Day). Spectators can enjoy having a caricature drawn with their pet (of any type), taking part in dog training demos on-site, watching a K9 officer at work finding a “lost” person, having pictures taken in our doggy kissing booth, and watching (or participating in) the doggy Olympics on Sunday.
Q: How do the entry fees contribute to the overall event, and are there any prizes or awards for the winners?
A: The entry fees contribute to the purchase of the materials, supplies and prizes for the event. Our sponsors also contribute wonderful gift baskets for the winners. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner from each of the events (Sprints, Hurdles, and Costume Contest) receives a “Weiner’s Circle” flower wreath, which they can wear proudly, and a gift basket filled with doggie goodies, compliments of our many generous sponsors.
Q: Can you share any heartwarming or memorable moments from previous years' races?
A: I love seeing all of the dachshunds come out to race and participate in the costume contest. We have numerous repeat-racers that I look forward to seeing every year, and of course I always get excited when new racers join as well. Our event takes place right on the beautiful shores of Lake Minnetonka, so when the sun is shining and the lake is glistening, the breeze is blowing, we’re surrounded by dog lovers watching the dachshunds race down the track, it is a very memorable day for sure!
Some highlights for me from the races are:
Seeing literally hundreds of spectators crowded around the racetrack cheering for the dachshunds participating.
Visiting with all of the different dogs who attend as spectators (with their humans).
Seeing Sophie, our “handicapable” Sprint Racer and multiple-time Costume Contest winner strut proudly around the track with her wheelchair cart carrying her back legs --- she’s a crowd favorite!
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