Half a dozen wiener dog owners squatted down at the finish line, wielding anything from their pup’s favorite toy to eggs and bags of beef jerky in hopes of luring their long-bodied companions down the course in a hurry.
More than 20 wiener dogs — or Dachshunds as they’re officially known — duked it out for the title of Fastest Wiener in Montana at the 25th annual Great Spinnaker/Shiners Chili Cook-Off and Wiener Dog Race on Saturday in Lakeside. The races kicked off like any real sporting event, with a rendition of the national anthem, and some 300 people crowded around hay bales and on the rooftop of the Spinnaker to get a gander at this annual oddity. The crowd was enthusiastic, owing in part to the chili cook-off and beer festival that preceded the races, and in part because of the small-town charm of it all.
A handful of supporters bore signs decorated with their dog’s name and another crew even had custom t-shirts.
The racers themselves were a unique bunch: mini Dachshunds, long-haired Dachshunds and dogs that definitely enjoyed one or two treats too many comprised the field of competitors. Most of them took the whole ordeal a lot less seriously than their owners — giving up victory in pursuit of a good smell, running to greet other dogs or simply refusing to go past the starting line at all.
Multiple heats of wiener racing eventually narrowed the field down to the final six dogs.
On the starting line, owners gave their hounds encouraging pets and pep talks before shoving them forward when the cue to go rang out.
With ears flapping in the breeze, the dogs ran as fast as their short little legs could carry them and the whole thing was over in about five seconds.
First across the finish line was a 3-year-old Dachshund named Raymond.
His owners, Sandra Blayden and Chris Sorensen, of Kalispell, had even donned custom shirts for the occasion that read “Team Ray-Ray.”
“I can’t believe it,” Blayden said of Raymond’s win. “I just think it’s so fun. What a fun community event — and he rocked it. I’ve never seen this many Dachshunds.”
The chili cook-off and wiener dog races were the brainchild of Spinnaker Bar owner and local Shriner Rudy Heinle. Heinle wanted to do something to contribute to the Flathead Valley Shrine Club, but was often too busy running the Spinnaker to get involved. Instead he decided to host a fundraiser on his own turf. Each year, the event raises $4,000 to $5,000 for the Shriners, to cover the cost of transporting Flathead Valley children to Shriner’s hospitals where they receive care, regardless of ability to pay.
“Every year or two I have somebody who comes up to me and says the Shriners hospital helped my nephew … and they were so appreciative of the ways it’s done because they [the Shriners] treat everybody like a million bucks and give them money to get to the hospital,” Heinle said. “That’s really the best part.”
Reporter Mackenzie Reiss can be reached at (406) 758-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.