Birkebeiner activities underway in northern Wisconsin

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HAYWARD, Wis. (WDIO) -- Winter and skiing fans gathered at Hayward for the Birkebeiner Ski Marathon with 49 states and 33 countries participating in the Nordic skiing event.

13,000 participants prepared for the 44th Annual Birkie that kicked off Thursday, Feb. 22.

The pet-friendly Birkie Skijor kicked off early Thursday morning followed by the Kids Ski Race that ranged from ages three and up.

The annual event brings in thousands of volunteers and support from the community.

"The economic impact is more than $20 million. So not only is it from a dollar and cents standpoint it’s something the community is really proud of. We work really hard to put on the greatest show on snow, and we believe the from the event standpoint its second to none," said Birkebeiner Executive Director Ben Popp.

The historical winter marathon started back in 1973 and continues on bringing everyone together annually. The big race kicks of Saturday morning Cable where skiers will go through the Birkebeiner 50 and 55 kilometer race all the way to Hayward.

There will be a showing of a documentary called "Saving Snow" throughout the weekend focusing on climate change.

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