What to Expect at Your First CanAm

By Mackenzie Maidl

Since I attended my first CanAm in 2017, it has become my favorite “family” reunion and I look forward to it every year. I remember initially walking into the building and being completely overwhelmed. I had no idea what to expect. It was late Thursday night, and we were some of the last people setting up. It was dark and quiet, and the building felt so big. For anyone planning their first CanAm experience, here are a few things I wish I had known before I arrived.

Be prepared to experience all four seasons in one day! We have faced everything from snow flurries to 90°F/32°C temps. Regularly checking the forecast leading up to the weekend—and then double checking—has saved me many times from over- (and under-) packing. Don’t forget both fans and coats for the dogs, as mornings can start cold and really warm up as racing gets going during the day.

You will be able to get into the building on Thursday to set up your crating area. Your space will be pre-marked, but make sure your captain has confirmed where your club will be located. It is a big building, and you could be wandering for a bit if you aren’t sure which end you are crating in. Don’t be afraid to spruce up your area for this special event! VIP lounges, couches on wheels, and refrigerators have all made appearances at CanAm in the past.

If your club is anything like mine, the meal plan is just as important as the racing plan. Racing lasts all day and there is not a break for lunch. You are able to bring in your own food, just don’t forget the extension cord, power
strip, and duct tape to plug in the crockpots and coffee makers. There is a concession stand in the building if you don’t feel like pre-planning all your meals. You will also want to make sure you bring some extra money to grab
some ice cream from Hook’s, which is maybe a little too conveniently located directly across the street.

Emily-Rose outside Hook’s

Depending on how many teams your club has entered you may have more free time between racing than others. I personally like to spend this time checking out the many vendors. I like to stock up on new collars, leashes, crate pads and tugs for the year. A walk around the building to check out the fun and unique crating areas is also one of my favorite ways to kill some downtime, in addition to watching racing.

Be prepared for it to be an all-day event and don’t rush out after racing! Friday and Saturday everyone comes together for awards. I highly recommend bringing a chair and a drink over to celebrate your and your fellow competitors’ success for the day. Awards are a great opportunity to get to know other clubs you may not get to see any other time during the year. After awards there will be mat time to work those green dogs and baby dogs you brought along. If at any point during the day you do need to leave and want to come back for awards or mat time, be prepared to pay to reenter the fairgrounds.

Gathering for awards

The biggest surprise to me was that you don’t know the Sunday racing schedule until late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. The Sunday seed times are based on your best time from Saturday and NAFA works hard to put together a competitive schedule for teams of all speeds and skill levels. The fastest eight Regular and fastest four Multibreed teams are invited to the CanAm Class. Those invitations are received at Saturday night awards.

Racing will be stopped throughout the day on Sunday for the CanAm Class elimination races which are fast and intense. It’s win-or-go-home racing and you won’t want to miss it! All the Classic Class Regular and Multibreed
divisions race on Sunday in a round-robin format for their chance to race on the big stage in the Division Championship races. And there are still Open division races to watch and participate in.

Championship Ring at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Invitational races will be filmed and broadcast on ESPN2.

The Sunday finale is so exciting! Once all the Classic Class round-robin racing is complete, the final races to determine the Regular and Multibreed CanAm Champions take place. Everyone gathers around to cheer on the
teams that have worked and trained so hard for that moment. It is truly some of the most fun racing you will experience. After that come the Championship races for each Classic Class Regular and Multibreed division.
With the cancellation in 2020 and travel restrictions/limited turnout last year, I am hopeful we will see more new faces than normal at CanAm in 2022.