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Wiener Dog races to be run in Vergas

Wiener dogs will be jumping hurdles to compete in the national competition, being held in Vergas during Looney Daze.

On Aug. 10, a stampede of tiny furry feet will thunder down the racetrack at the 2013 National Wiener Dog Races, held this year as part of the Vergas Looney Daze. 

Event coordinator Tom “Digger” Anderson, a resident of Savage, Minn. has been a part of the Wiener racing circuit since he got his first dachshund eight years ago.

He joined a nationwide dachshund rescue group called “Dachshunds Making a Difference,” which had a chapter in the Twin Cities.

“They do wiener dog races, and they asked if I could help them,” Anderson said. “I didn’t realize I was going to be the emcee,” he laughed. “Since then I’ve been organizing the races.”

With three AKC registered dachshunds of his own named Molly, Gus, and Gracie, Anderson said that his pets don’t participate in the races.

“I can’t race and do the races at the same time. To make it a good event for everyone else, I choose to leave my wieners at home, but we have so much fun with this.”

Anderson spends his summers in a cabin in the area, and was very familiar with the local festivities in Vergas.

“I’ve been coming to Looney Daze, for, gosh, 30 years, and every year they try to come up with something new, so I suggested it (wiener dog racing) last year to the committee,” Anderson said.

Officials agreed that the idea held promise to generate public interest and bring in a lot of spectators, and Anderson has since been hard at work in preparation.

The races will be held on the Vergas baseball diamond off of County Road 4. Anderson said he has been fertilizing the patch of grass, which he estimates will yield a straight track between 60 to 75 feet in length.  When race day rolls around, he laughed and promised that “it will be the greenest spot of grass in all of Vergas.”

He has also constructed a semi-permanent installation for the track, which will make it easy to replace and reinstall if the races return in future years.

“Based on the attention that this is getting and the people that are asking about it, I think it’s going to turn into a regular event,” Anderson said.

He will serve as both event coordinator and emcee, and three guest judges will be joining him.

Ma Nelsen is a seasoned expert in wiener dog racing circles, and has judged multiple races in the past. Claudia Schmid is a resident of the area, and will serve as a local judge, and Sandy Buttweiler is part of the Jack and Sandy Show, a popular radio program through KFGO in Fargo.

“Hopefully all of the dogs run down the track in a straight line, because it makes it a lot easier for the judges,” Anderson said of determining a winner.

“It’s a dual race, with sprint races and really low hurdles.” Anderson explained. He recently built the hurdles, which will stand at two and a quarter inches tall. “It’s funnier than all get out,” Anderson said of watching the races.

During both events, owners will stand at each end with a chew toy, treat, or anything that will entice their pet to race down the course.

Though the name of the race implies that dachshunds are the only breed that my participate, Anderson said, “they don’t have to be a registered wiener — they don’t even have to be a purebred. If they just look something kind of like a wiener, you know, like having short legs, that’s close enough.”

He laughed and added, “no black labs are permitted.” Participating dogs don’t need to have any prior experience with racing.

Registration begins at 10 a.m. on Aug. 10. The cost to enter is $10, which will cover the fee for up to three dogs. Half of the registration money will benefit “Dachshunds Making a Difference,” and the other half will contribute to the Looney Daze Bucks.

“Hot laps,” or a practice run, begins at 11 a.m., and is the perfect opportunity for pet owners to give their dog a test race. “Anybody can bring their dog out to the track at 11 and just see how it goes. If your dog just wants to sniff other dogs’ butts, which happens, then maybe you don’t want to register your dog,” Anderson laughed.

The racing officially kicks off at noon, sending a scurry of dogs dashing down the track. It’s free admission to watch, and plenty of bleacher space will be provided for seating, though spectators are also encouraged to bring folding chairs. A beverage stand will be available.

Anderson said, “I’m expecting, just based upon the phone calls, emails, and registration, a minimum of 15 to 25 (racers). Most of them are from the area here.” He added that three defending champion racers will be making a trip from the cities for the event.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers. First place earns 50 Looney Daze Bucks, second earns 30, and third comes away with 20. Anderson also said there will also be “really, really cool door prizes,” which have been donated. 

Shirts commemorating the races are available for purchase at the Vergas Liquor Store or Billy’s Corner Bar and Grill.

A photographer from Modern Dog Magazine will be in attendance, and Weckworth Animal Hospital from Pelican Rapids is contributing an employee to provide veterinary services at the races.

“It’s a big event, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Anderson said.

For more information, or to preregister for the races, contact Digger Anderson at 763-370-9796, or email him at

Anderson said that the races will be wrapped up by 1:45 p.m., giving audience members sufficient time to head to the Loon Calling Contest at 2 p.m.

While in the area for the Wiener Dog Nationals, be sure to check out some of the other fun events that will be featured during Looney Daze, from Aug. 8-11.

On Thursday, Aug. 8, the Miss Vergas and Princess Altona Pageant will be held in the Vergas Event Center.

Friday will offer a community-wide rummage sale, road rally, and a musical performance from Poitin.

Saturday kicks off with a Vergas Lions breakfast, kids fishing tournament, 5K run or walk, a street faire, loon calling contest, and the Wiener Dog Nationals, of course!

The festivities conclude on Sunday with a classic car show, strongman competition, water fight, and the Looney Daze parade.

A beer garden opens on Friday, and will be run through the rest of the weekend, and the Methodist Church will hold a flea market in the church parking lot on Friday and Saturday.

These events are just a brief sampling of the diverse activities of Looney Daze — for more information on the summer tradition and a complete listing, visit the Looney Daze Facebook page.

Libby Larson | DL-Online