Cute alert: Kids, puppies herald arrival of Beargrease week

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It's the week of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon ... and as the preliminary festivities got underway, it was the youngest who led them, on four legs and two.

In a doubleheaded celebration of youth, children as young as three were able to try their hand at mushing in the Cub Run; then it was time for the canines to vie for the title of Cutest Puppy.

Participants in the Cub Run included Nicole Freking – who gained fame in an online video this month – and her big sister Elena, 5.

When things really went to the dogs, the ultimate winner was an Alaskan malamute named Banshee, though how the judges were able to choose is anyone's guess.

As WDIO notes, competing puppies had to be in the 4-month to 9-month age range.

Marathon starts Sunday morning

More events are planned next weekend before the marathon begins on Sunday morning at 11 a.m.

The mushers will be starting from Two Harbors rather than Duluth, where the snow is not as deep. But the finish line will still be in Duluth, where mushers are expected to arrive on Feb. 3 at the end of their 400-mile course.

The race is more than 30 years old. Financial problems made its future uncertain a few years ago, but a change in ownership helped turn things around.

The race's namesake, John Beargrease, delivered mail by dogsled along the north shore in the late 1800s.

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