With the Volunteer and Musher Sign-up Picnic, the first chapter of Iditarod XLVII has been recorded. The day began with heavy cloud cover that threatened rain at any minute but optimistic as Iditarod fans, volunteers and mushers are, spirits were not dampened. The positive vibes prevailed and by noon the sky turned from mostly cloudy to partly cloudy. By the time the most anticipated drawing for the free Iditarod entry fees occurred at around three o’clock in the afternoon, the sun was peaking out and temperatures rose into the mid 60’s.
Once again, the crew of the Golden Corral provided food for the picnic. Picnic goers enjoyed barbecued chicken, smoked Cajun sausage, baked beans, pasta salad and their ever-famous brownies. Many thanks to the folks of Golden Corral for their always delicious food!
Two rookies signed up for the 2019 Iditarod at the picnic. Blair Braverman from near Green Bay, Wisconsin is excited for the run to Nome. She’ll bring her dog team to Alaska by the end of the year to train and run some of the mid-distance races. Blair is living her dream of racing across Alaska.
The second rookie, Jessica Klejka, is a veteran of the JR Iditarod who claimed that championship in 2008. Klejka, originally from Bethel, Alaska now resides in Wasilla, Alaska. Jessica is a veterinarian and practices at the Big Lake Veterinary Clinic.
By mid-afternoon, twenty-eight mushers had signed up. Some were at the picnic. Others filed their entry online. Many familiar names are on the musher list. Top ten finishers from 2018 who’ve committed to the 2019 race include defending champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Nicolas Petit, Peter Kaiser, Richie Diehl, Jessie Holmes, Ramey Smith and Linwood Fiedler. These seven guys bring seventy-six years of Iditarod experience to the race.
Four-time champions Jeff King and Martin Buser are signed up to race in March. Aliy Zirkle and Jessie Royer join them. Collectively Buser, King, Zirkle and Royer have 97 years of Iditarod experience and share fifty-one top 10 finishes. Notably, this is Buser’s thirty-sixth race and he’s never scratched.
Most contestants call the USA home. Canadians Jason Campeau, Marcelle Fressineau are joined by reigning champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom from Norway and Mats Pettersson of Sweden. Mushers from the lower 48 include rookie Blair Braverman (WI), Emily Maxwell (IA) and Shayne Traska (MI).
The first bib-draw includes mushers who signed up before 2:30 Saturday afternoon. Matt Failor will be the first to cross the stage at the mushers banquet and pull a number out of the mukluk. Kristin Bacon will be the twenty-eighth musher. Mushers who sign up after June 30th will be in the second group to draw their starting position.
John Cooper generously supports Iditarod with Kipmik products for a musher drawing. Jeff Deeter received 12 dog bowls, Jessie Holmes and Anja Radano received ladles. Aliy Zirkle’s name was drawn for 500 dog booties. Thank you John for supporting the race and the mushers with these products.
The 2018 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, Heidi Sloan, passed the sleeping bag on to Brian Hickox who will serve in the position for the next school year. The passing of the sleeping bag at the June picnic marks the commencement of duties for the new teacher. Through the next year, Brian will be the direct link for teachers and students world wide to the great educational theme of Iditarod. Congratulations to Heidi for an excellent job over the past year.
Finally it’s the moment mushers and fans have been waiting for. Two entry fees are awarded to mushers who’ve signed up to race and are in attendance at the picnic. The first name drawn for the entry fee was Anja Radano. Radano made her rookie run to Nome in 2018. Anja also won her entry fee in 2018. The second entry fee went to Jeff Deeter. Deeter ran Iditarod in 2008 then returned in 2018. Congratulations to Jeff and Anja! Receiving the $4,000 entry fee is a good omen for these mushers and their journey to Nome in 2019!
Come back often as more mushers will join the 2019 race between now and December 1st. Here is a link to the musher list for Iditarod XLVII.