Preeceville Mushers Rendezvous say goodbye after 20 years

“They say all good things must come to an end,” stated a release from the Preeceville and District Rendezvous Committee.

“It is with heavy hearts that the Preeceville and District Mushers Rendezvous committee members have decided to hang up our jerseys after 20 great years of a truly unique event. The decision on September 17 was necessary and due to lack of committee members and volunteers, the event will not be taking place in 2020,” it said.

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The committee members are happy to state that they leave on a good note, with a significant amount of pride from the committee’s contributions of more than $350,000 over the last 20 years.

“The countless hours of volunteerism by past and present members has been the best and we are so very proud of the support that we have been able to show to our community and surrounding areas. Thank you to all of the individuals and businesses for your dedication and commitment over the years. We are very proud to say that such a special event was able to have taken place so successfully for so long,” said the release.

The original conception behind Mushers began with John Masko and Michael Osatiuk.

"We were sitting around at our moose camp when the discussion came up how the possibility of starting up dog sled racing as a fundraiser would benefit the hospital," said John Masko, one of the original committee and founding members.

The duo contacted Kevin Cook of Preeceville. who was part of the dog sled community, to help set up and organize a committee that would organize the race event in Preeceville. The original members included Masko, Osatiuk, Cook, Bessie Arnie, Lorne Plaxin and Bev Masko.

The first winter celebration was held February 5 and 6, 2000 and featured six and 10 dog-races with two suppers, a talent show and dance.

"We had a huge response from the community and area, so the decision was made to continue the winter celebration as a way to break up winter,” stated Cook.

Over the years the rendezvous has incorporated many different events including snow hill sliding, children's games, suppers, talent show and an awards portion at the conclusion of the event. The first Musher Rendezvous raised $34,000 towards the expansion of the hospital.

In the first event, Florence Nawroski was crowned queen with Jeannette Jaques as first runner- up and Janet Christopherson, as second runner-up. A talent show with eight contestants concluded the weekend. Contestants featured the Assiniboine Valley Fiddlers; Helen Boyko; Club 60 Ukrainian Choir; the Scharfenburg’s and company; the Mayor's Family Band; Preeceville Lions Hostel staff, Woodland Chorus and the Sisters of Clair.

There were a variety of activities featured during the weekend that included skating, snow hill sliding, a pancake breakfast, two variety suppers and a dance with music by Midnight Blue.

A CF-18 jet flew over the town of Preeceville as part of the special events for the first Mushers Rendezvous.

There were nine 10-dog teams with Raymond Cook winning the event. Lyle Cook won second place and Kevin Cook placed third, all of Preeceville.

There were 16 teams entered in the six-dog race with Hans Rietz of Rocky Mountain House, Alta. winning first place followed by Scott Howie of Saskatoon and Jack Cook of Southend.