The Mushers’ Banquet on Thursday night kicked off the Iditarod festivities. Silent and live auctions, mushers, and bib numbers entertained the 2500 people at the convention center. Each musher draws for their bib number, which is their team’s starting position for the race. In past years, this event has lasted all night, but the 67 mushers this year kept the bib number picking running very quickly. The great thing about this event is the accessibility of the mushers. They are seated at tables throughout the room and welcome autographs and photos. I got pictures of all the previous big winners and crowd favorites: Lance Mackey, Mark Buser, Rick Swenson, Mitch Seavey, Martin Buser, and DeeDee Jonrowe.
The Volunteer Excitement
After checking in at the Iditarod Race Headquarters, I went through dog handler training in preparation for the Race Start and Restart. There were many new volunteers along with some veterans but everyone was looking forward to helping out and having a part in the Iditarod. We ran with a team of 7 dogs around a parking lot to get an idea of where to hold the ropes and a feel for handling the dogs. I'm an official dog handler now!
Me at dog handling training
As I walked down the snow covered sidewalks and through slush covered intersections on 4th street in downtown Anchorage, crews were setting up for the Iditarod Ceremonial Race start on Saturday morning. The street was shut down and fences put up to get ready for the race. Trucks were rumbling all night as snow was brought in (yes, brought in) to cover the streets to make it easier on the dogs. The excitement and anticipation of the big event blanketed the city as fans streamed in throughout week.
I've been told Tia's Gourmet Hot Dogs and Reindeer Sausage is one of the best stands around and Channel 2 thinks so too!