The History of the T200

T200 History

The Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race had its’ humble beginnings as a beer run into the hills. Founded by Dean Osmar, a local musher and 1984 Iditarod champion, the T200 started as just a bunch of guys using their sleds and dog power to get them to a secluded location so they could party without any interruptions.
Or so the story goes…

Dean Osmar tells a different story. He originally started the race for local mushers; more specifically for his son, Tim, a 4 time Jr. Iditarod champion, to acquire the 500 race miles needed to compete in the Iditarod.

The race was officially reorganized by the T200 Sled Dog Race Association. Headed by Suzie Cook, part owner of the Tustumena Lodge, and Evy Gebhardt, wife of local musher, Paul Gebhardt, the race would see phenomenal growth in the next half decade.

Evy became a huge part of the T200 and wouldn’t be allowed to leave for five years. An eloquent speaker, Evy began a five-year campaign to make this small town race become the best known on the Peninsula. Becoming a qualifying race for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was one of the finest moments in our race’s childhood. Drawing mushers from as far away as Australia, the T200 has truly evolved into one of the great races.

John and Suzie Cook, owners of the official starting point of the race (The Tustumena Lodge), have so generously given the time and space, once a year, to put up with a bunch of noisy dogs in their parking lot. This couple has become such an integral part of the race, it couldn’t be called the T200 without them.

Beginning with 10 – 15 local teams, the T200 has grown to 25 – 30 teams, many from around the state, as well as other countries. Originally having a race “purse” of one case of beer, the race now has an estimated purse of $20,000. It sure has come a long way.

In the later months of 1997, Evy heard from an outside source that Kenai Chrysler owner; Bob Favretto, had an interest in the race. Wearing her ever-present pink parka, she enlisted what would become the race’s major sponsor. Bob, unable to resist her impassioned pleas and winning smile, graciously donated $5,000 for the race purse.
In 1998, a joint effort of the Tustumena 200 and the Peninsula Winter Games resulted in a Ceremonial Start for the race. Starting at the Kenai City Dock, the mushers do a short sprint carrying a passenger, drop them at Kenai Supply, then continue another 8 miles to Kasilof Airstrip. Children from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and local clubs and organizations are matched with a musher and actually draw the starting positions at the pre-race banquet. For some, this is their first experience with dogs, dog sleds, and/or this much adrenaline in one place. There is little that can match the excitement of these kids as they are tucked into the sled bags and the handlers start to “walk” the team to the starting gate. None will forget the intense thrill of whizzing over the frozen landscape and no musher will forget the wonderful feeling of a child’s joy.

In The Beginning

God created the Heavens and the Earth.
And God said,
“Let there be light.” And there was light.
Then God said,
“Let the waters abound with an abundance of living
creatures. And let the birds fly above the Earth.”
Then God said,
“Let us make man in our own image,
according to our likeness.”
So God created man in his own image;
in the image of God, He created them;
male and female He created them.
Then Adam said unto God,
“Thou hast given us everything,
and yet we are lonely in our company.”
And God drew forth from himself the greatest force,
and created… the dog.
And it was good. That was the sixth day.
On the seventh day, they mushed.
And it was fun.