Birkie skiers and spectators enjoy party in place of race

Posted at 4:33 PM, Feb 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-26 16:02:00-05

Although warm weather canceled the American Birkebeiner for just the second time in its 44 years, race organizers decided to replace the race with a fun event for skiers and spectators alike.

Thousands of people enjoyed a Birkie party Saturday, breaking in the new American Birkebeiner Trailhead and start area with skiing, food, vendors, and live music. 

"Obviously I would have loved to do the race, but I'm just as happy to be here and just having fun with everybody," said Josie Nelson, a skier from Minnesota who finished third last year in the Birkebeiner Classic race. 

Fun was the focus of Saturday's events, with many enjoying the day without the pressure of racing.

"People are in good spirits," said Robb Koebert, a skier from Milwaukee.

The event also included a short loop for participants to get on their skis at least once during Birkie weekend.

"We made the trip, so we might as well do some skiing," said Matt Frinak of Green Bay, before heading out on the course.

The only other time the American Birkebeiner has been canceled was in 2000, but skiers said this year race organizers had a better plan.

"The fact that they put together this celebration gave us something to look forward to and not just getting in your car and going home," said Koebert.

The event brought the cross country skiing community together for a celebration of the sport, and the American Birkebeiner.

"Sometimes Mother Nature deals you a hand and you just have to take it, and we're going to make lemonade out of lemons," said Ben Popp, American Birkebeiner Executive Director.

For more information on the American Birkebeiner, visit their website here.

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