The reigning champion stared down the track in front of him Saturday at the Centennial Mall.
As KRAI’s Frank Hanel counted down into the microphone, more than 100 people began cheering for two small dachshund’s that were supposed to take off down a racetrack, which was outlined with masking tape on the mall floor.
But 1 1/2-year-old Stewart froze.
The small dachshund, who had won the same race a year before, turned away from the starting line and ran through the crowd behind him.
He then soiled a potted plant and took off for the door.
It was only the beginning of Stewart’s troubles in the Weenie Dog Races at the 27th Annual KRAI Spring Expo.
Later, in a semifinal race, his opponent wanted to play and bite his nose instead of race.
“I think there was a little too much testosterone out there,” laughed Stewart’s owner, Sarah Moore, while her husband fed the dog strips of Pupperoni treats.
Although it wasn’t Stewart’s year, 10-year-old Maddy showed that experience was a virtue.
For the third time in her racing career, dachshund race veteran Maddy captured the Weenie Dog championship by sprinting directly at her owner, Donna Deatherage, from the moment Hanel shouted, “Go!”
“This track was about twice as long as it’s ever been,” Deatherage said. “But I think she’s kind of into it. She knows the drill by now.”
Deatherage said Maddy lives in the country and has lots of room to exercise and practice for races at the Expo and the Moffat County Fair.
But practice wasn’t necessarily the key to a champion wiener dog.
“It’s lots of love,” Deatherage said.
For radio station owner Hanel, the weenie dog races are the highlight of the Spring Expo, which this year showcased about 50 businesses from across the region.
It was the largest number of exhibitors the event has seen and included everything from tractors and snowmobiles to photographers and nonprofit organizations.
KRAI sales manager Vicki Gutierrez called the event successful, based on the number of interactive booths and the estimated thousands of visitors who visited the mall.
“Great exhibitors, good interaction, good crowds,” she said. “Every booth had some sort of giveaway or contest.”
For Gutierrez, who is allergic to dogs, the high point of the expo was about noon Saturday when the Diaper Derby finals took place.
In a crowd-favorite event, crawling babies raced to the outside of a half-circle, enticed by their mothers to cross the finish line.
“Who doesn’t love babies?” Gutierrez said.
Toby Goodwin, 8 months, took home the honors in the Diaper Derby, winning a three-way final that pitted him against his cousin, Kasen Davis, 11 months.
“I just thought it would be fun to see what would happen,” said Toby’s father, Jake Goodwin.
But most of the babies were about as concerned with the race as Stewart the wiener dog was.
Some would crawl a few inches then sit back and gaze around at the crowd.
In the championship race, Toby sat at the starting line and cried until Jake stood up and walked toward the outside of the circle. He followed his father and overtook the other two babies, neither of which had gotten very far.
Although Kasen was no match for his cousin’s speed, he could have won the award for biggest toothless smile.
“He really goes for the gusto,” said Kim Davis, holding her still-smiling son after the race. “But I think he just likes showing off.”
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793 or email@example.com.