It was a pleasant day with more clouds than sun as volunteers, mushers, and race fans gathered on the front lawn of Iditarod Headquarters to picnic and reminisce about the past race. At the same time in a tent just to the left of Balto’s statue, mushers were signing up, creating the first chapter of Iditarod XLII. Late in the afternoon, two musher’s names would be drawn to have their entry fees waived for the race, the musher had to be present to win. In the mean time, everyone enjoyed food provided by race sponsor Golden Corral of Anchorage and fresh salmon flown in by race sponsor Pen Air.
Hanging out at the sign-up tent one could have snapped pictures of the thirty-one mushers who signed up in person. It was no surprise to see Martin Buser, Aliy Zirkle, Dee Dee, Mitch Seavey, Alan Moore, Jim Lanier, Nick Pettit, Mike Williams Jr., or the Smyth brothers complete the application and pay the $3,000 entry fee. Also welcomed to the Iditarod Trail were eleven rookies including Cindy Abbott, Charlie Bejna, Nathan Schroeder, Monica Zappa, Marcelle Fressineau and Lisbet Norris. Dan Kaduce, 2010 Rookie of the Year and Norwegian Joar Leifseth Ulsom, 2013 Rookie of the Year are both returning to run the northern Iditarod route. Ed Stielstra who scratched before the 2013 race due to a head injury will be back. Travis Beals, the youngest musher on the trail in 2013 has secured funding and is returning, likewise for Newton Marshall. Paige Drobney and Jason Mackey are returning. Grand Champion, Robert Sorlie, from Norway is returning to the Iditarod trail after a six-year absence. Veteran Ellen Halverson who’s claimed the Red Lantern in two previous Iditarod runs has joined the 2014 race.
All in all, there were 31 mushers present for the first day of sign-up and 21 entries were received by mail. Late in the afternoon, the order for bib draw was established for the fifty-two entries. The first musher to reach into the giant mukluk at the February 27th Musher Banquet will be Charley Bejna followed by Martin Buser, Scott Janssen, Jeff King and Ramey Smith. Check the order for the bib draw online.
A four-legged celebrity from Chugiak joined the festivities at Iditarod Headquarters. Anybody who followed the race in 2013 knows May or as Jim Lanier referred to her as, “Wrong Way May.” Yes, the Lanier family, Jim, Anna and Jimmy brought the blue-eyed blond dog to the picnic to say thanks to everybody for their concern and help in locating the little lady who escaped from Newton Marshall’s team after he stopped to help a fellow musher and his own team became tangled. In sorting out the tangles, May escaped and had her own Iditarod adventure between Nikolai and Rohn and Rohn and Nikolai before she finally headed back down the trail and was lured into custody only a few miles short of the Willow start.
Iditarod Education took the stage for a few minutes during the afternoon. Linda Fenton, 2013 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, received recognition for her excellent lessons and trail connections. The very first ExxonMobil Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, Jennifer Reiter from Baltimore, MD was introduced. It’s tradition for the sleeping bag and other equipment to be passed between the past and future Teacher on the Trail at the picnic. Thanks Linda for your excellent and tireless efforts on behalf of students around the world and best wishes, Jen, as you embark upon a professional journey that will eclipse all others.
The moment every one was waiting for came when two musher names were drawn to have their entry fees waived. There are advantages for mushers to come to the picnic to sign up and be asked for many autographs and pictures – camaraderie, great food and eligibility for the waived fee. Three thousand dollars goes a long way for a racing musher. Drum roll please… BBBbbbrrrrrrr… and the winners are Yvonne Dabakk of Oslo, Norway and Mike Williams, Jr. of Akiak, AK. Congratulations!
Iditarod XLII begins on Saturday March 1st. Stay tuned for all the latest greatest news at www.iditraod.com.