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Winter Carnival in Sandpoint features ‘K-9 Keg Pull’

As the winter weather morphs into a never ending freeze-thaw cycle, the Sandpoint Winter Carnival kicks off to celebrate all things that can be fun about the cold season in the Northwest.

While some events have already started, the carnival gets its big welcome on Friday with the “Parade of Lights,” which includes crazy floats and marching hordes armed with snow shovels. The parade starts at 5:30 p.m. at City Parking Lot.

Following the parade, skiers and snow boarders will hit the man-made snow hill as part of the “Sandpoint Throw Down Rail Jam” contest, which invites anyone willing to ride a big urban downhill rail setup. The event features some of the region’s best skiers and snow boarders.

The days-long festival includes all kinds of activities during the week, including live music, sleigh rides and Friday night ski races at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

But the festival wouldn’t be complete without combining dog races and beer. Eichardt’s Pub, Grill and Coffee House is again sponsoring the “K-9 Keg Pull” to raise money for the Panhandle Animal Shelter.

The event starts at 10 a.m. on Feb. 21. It was started by the Pend Oreille Brewing Company, and Eichardt’s owner Jeff Nizzoli agreed to sponsor the event after the brewery shut down.

“It’s such a fun event,” he said. “When you have 100 dogs, there’s lots of action every where.”

Eichardt’s, located at 212 Cedar St., first hosted the races in the alley adjacent to the pub. But Nizzoli moved it three years ago to the Granary. The dog races will held in conjunction with a tasting by Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters, at 524 Church St.

“We outgrew the alley,” Nizzoli said. “This is the third year at the Granary. It allows us to run dual courses side-by-side so … more dogs get to run.”

The shelter also brings down several dogs that can be adopted. Nizzoli adopted his dog, Nala, a Husky-Yellow Lab mix, at the event six years ago.

“We have four different categories. The large dogs pull the big kegs,” which are empty, he said. “The tiny dogs pull an empty beer can because some of the small dogs are the size of a beer can.”

The dogs race against the clock.

“Some dogs do it in five or six seconds and some take one or two minutes,” he said. “It depends on how distracted they are.”

Owners can run their dogs as many times as they are willing to pay the $5 entry fee.

Although he hosts the event, Nizzoli has never won with Nala.

“She’s done it really fast and really slow,” he said. “It just depends on her personality that day.

“Last year, she went off course twice,” Nizzoli said. “The older she gets, the slower she gets. But, it’s all about having fun.”

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