CANFIELD, Ohio — Spectators in the grandstand cheered as the final heat of contestants for a new competition at the Canfield Fair walked to the starting line Aug. 31. The contestants lined up, and their handlers crouched behind them, holding on tight.
“Go!” The announcer shouted.
At that signal, 15 wiener dogs ran across the track on short, stubby legs, their ears blowing in the wind, towards squeaky toys, rubber balls, stuffed hedgehogs and their owners. At least, some of them did. Others simply wagged their tails, looking confused.
The fastest dog
The winner of the day was Scrappy, a dachshund from Austintown who had never raced before that day. His owners, Roxanne and Tom Moltchan, said they knew he was a fast dog. He enjoys long walks and hikes with them on a regular basis.
“We just thought it would be fun,” said Roxanne Moltchan.
At the Canfield Fair’s inaugural wiener dog race, 46 dogs competed in three heats, with a fourth heat including the top three from each previous race to determine the final winners.
The rules were simple: each dog had two handlers, one to release them at the starting line and one for them to run to at the finish line 20 yards away. The races were held between the harness races on the same track.
Most people did not train for the race. Winston, a one-year-old dog, just chased chickens, horses and cats like he would anyway, according to his owner, Glynnis Fernandez of Beaver County, Pennsylvania.
“I don’t [train the dogs],” said Valerie Evans, of Tampa Bay, Florida. “All the dogs are overly spoiled.”
Evans grew up going to the Canfield Fair before she moved to Florida. She planned to come back to visit for her Mother’s birthday, and when she heard about the wiener dog race, she decided to bring Tate and Gage, two of her five wiener dogs, to compete.
“They’re adorable, and I’m a sucker,” said Evans. “I got one and that was game over.”
Evans, who has raced her dogs in Florida and Tennessee, normally has whipped cream for her dogs to run to, but the Canfield Fair race did not allow food.
“Most of them just want to come running to us anyway,” Evans said.
The dogs who didn’t come running to the right handler either stayed next to the person who released them, wagging their tails, or wandered around the track, greeting other dogs and handlers.
The Jones family normally goes camping over Labor Day weekend. That, however, was before the Canfield Fair added the race.
“Our family loves dachshunds,” said Lindsay Jones. “I told my husband ‘there’s no way we’re going camping.’”
Her husband and daughter have spent time this summer teaching Lola, their dachshund, to run to them for her favorite ball.
The Canfield Fair decided to add the wiener dog race to its schedule this year to include more dogs and dog owners in the fair, according to Elwood Woolman, fairboard director.
“We thought this was a way to get people involved … and they’re cute,” Woolman said.
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