JOSEPH - When the Eagle Cap Sled Dog Race comes to town, everyone pitches in to make it work.

From the snowmobile clubs who groom the trails, to the volunteers who bring refreshments to race central, the effort is multi-faceted.

And according to several event organizers, it's the willingness of the residents of Joseph to help out that will make the race grow in years to come.

"It's pretty amazing, because it's a small town and it seems like everyone's out here in some capacity," said head veterinarian Dr. Vern Starks. "They all want to see it succeed."

Father and son duo Ray and Buck Potter are CEO and president of the race, respectively and, according to Buck, the 2007 edition of the event was the best so far.

"They say the third time's a charm and that's really been the case," he said. "With the way things are going, if the community stays behind it like this, it will be one of the premiere events in the northwest."

Potter said the course's difficulty will continue to draw mushers and the elevation changes are comparable to the world famous Yukon Quest.

Volunteers came from farther than just the Joseph city limits, and people from around Wallowa County are optimistic about the future of the event.

"The organization is getting more professional each year and it's already among the best on the West Coast," said 2005 winner Wayne Kaaen of Spray. "There's always snow. It's beautiful and it's a real musher's race."

This year's winner in the 12-dog, 200-mile race, Dean Fairburn, agreed, saying he'll come back next year if possible.

Along with drawing a larger field of racers, the draw of spectators also has improved since the event's first run.

"I was up at the start and there were all sorts of out-of-state plates," said Scott Taylor, a deputy sheriff from Wallowa who, along with his wife Judi, prepared food and tea for the official timekeepers. "People are interested in this, and it could really be a big deal around here."

Future plans for the race include a Main Street start/finish line, which only will be possible with certain snow conditions, and a conjunction with the winter ice sculpting festival.

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