'Means everything to me': Labrador dog sled race won by founder's nephew
Carl Rumbolt grew up watching his uncle care for and run dogs and now has his own team
Twenty years after his uncle died, Carl Rumbolt nabbed first place in the Labrador dog sledding competition named in his honour.
"This is a race that I always wanted to win ever since they started it," Rumbolt said of the Eric Rumbolt Memorial Dog Sled Race. He claimed first place over the weekend.
"Means everything to me. The dogs are my life."
Eric Rumbolt was born in 1949 and died from cancer in 2001. He was looked at by many in Labrador as being one of the people who kept the dog sledding tradition alive in southern Labrador, after many drivers moved from dog teams to snowmobiles.
The memorial race was started by Eric's family and friends in his memory in Port Hope Simpson, N.L. They've held 16 annual races so far, with 11 drivers competing in the 2022 race.
Carl Rumbolt has competed in the past but had never won until now. His uncle was on his mind all day Saturday as he competed, he said.
"[Eric] would be happy. I'd say he's up there now, grinning hard," Rumbolt said. "I was thinking of him going all the way around the course.… I said, 'Well, he's looking down on me.'"
He says his uncle is one of the people who inspired him to start his own dog sled team.
Now Rumbolt's son — who is only eight — has three dogs so far.
"It is our family tradition. And it's not only the family tradition, but it's all Labrador's tradition. If it wasn't for the dogs, I mean, there's a lot of people that wouldn't be here. The dogs got their food, they got their wood," Rumbolt said.
"To keep the tradition alive means a lot."
Dozens of people came out to watch the race and awards ceremony on Alexis Bay in Port Hope Simpson. Madonna Savory said it was wonderful to see the big turnout, and makes it feel as though the race will stay around forever.
"If they keep up and like the next generations, like we have a couple younger ones this year, so hopefully now they'll get into it and keep it going down and keep it alive," Savory said.
Savory is one of the committee members who organize the Eric Rumbolt Memorial Dog Sled Race, along with Dennis Burden and William Russell. She says the dogs were a major part of Eric's life, and he couldn't wait for the bay to freeze over so he could take his dogs for runs.
Savory said he took her out for her first dog sled when she was a small child. He raced for decades and loved to win and have the bragging rights.
Savory said he was a true Labrador man.
"He was a family man. But the dog sledding was a close second. Like anything to do with dogs, Uncle Eric done it along with his father and brothers and nephews," Savory said. "He was a big dog person, so to have a dog race in his memory. It's amazing. And he would love that."
With files from Regan Burden