When sixty-seven mushers gather into one room, there’s much reminiscing between peers who share the common bond of dogs, sleds and racing. Add to that friends, family, and sponsors of the sixty-seven mushers and it’s guaranteed to be a great time. Add to that representatives of all the corporations who sponsor the race – Wheel Dog, Team Dog, Lead Dog and Principal Partners and the celebration grows even larger. Then add the IDITAROD FANS and you have a festive event.
The Thursday evening Musher’s Banquet was held at the beautiful Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage. As to the number of folks who gathered to celebrate the 46th Iditarod and observe the mushers drawing for bibs and start positions, well let’s just say there were places set for 1,600 people and there were very few empty chairs.
The Iditarod Trail Committee honored Joee Redington with bib #1 for the 2018 Iditarod. The Honorary Musher or designee rides the eleven miles of the ceremonial start with the newly crowned JR. Iditarod Champion. The Manley Hot Springs checkpoint won Iditarod’s Golden Clipboard Award in 2017. The award is presented to the checkpoint that goes above and beyond during the race. From an Iditarod statement, “Joee played a big role in Manley Hot Springs receiving that award.” It’s a big job for a small village to host a checkpoint. When the temperatures measured well below zero during the race, the climate of the Manley Hot Springs checkpoint was always warm and welcoming. For Joee Redington it was a labor of love, an attitude he fostered throughout the community. Mushers thank him for his contributions to the sport of sled dog racing and the Iditarod thanks him for his contributions to the Last Great Race as a racer and checkpoint organizer.
The Iditarod Trail Foundation presented the Founder’s Award to Dave Olson. Olson has worn many hats with Iditarod over the years. Olson has finished the race four times. In the early years of the race, Olson cleared trail, scouted routes and groomed the Iditarod Trail. His tireless efforts on behalf of the race are much appreciated and have greatly contributed to making the race what it is today.
Iditarod’s Teacher on the Trail™ program celebrates the twentieth teacher on the trail in 2018. The Education Committee recognized Andrea “Finney” Aufder Heyde, the visionary who pitched the idea of having a teacher on the trail to the Iditarod Trail Committee. She was using the real life experiences of Iditarod in her classroom to make a positive impact on student achievement, motive students, inspire creative learning and spark critical thinking. Finney conceived of the idea to send a teacher out on the trail during the race. The teacher on the trail would serve as a resource to teachers and students in classrooms around the world. Finney sold the idea to the ITC. She served as the first teacher on the trail in 1999. Finney was presented with a quilt bearing insignias from all twenty teachers who’ve served on the trail.
The Official Iditarod Finisher’s Club honored the race’s first champion, Dick Wilmarth. Wilmarth won the inaugural Iditarod in a time of 20 days, 0 hours and 49 minutes. He ran only one Iditarod. The IOFC posthumously awarded Wilmarth’s lead dog, Hot Foot, with the Golden Harness Award. Wilmarth’s leader has been designated as the honorary lead dog for the race.
The big event of the evening was the drawing for bib numbers. After the mushers sign up at the summer picnic, their names are drawn from a hat to determine the order in which bib numbers will be drawn., Those mushers were in the first draw for bibs 2 through 47. The second draw for bibs 48 to 68 was for mushers who signed up after the June picnic.
As each musher drew for starting position, they had the opportunity to say a few words of thanks. Many
spoke about causes they were running for. All of Al Eischen’s miles are dedicated to pediatric disease awareness. Rick Casillo says the primary goal of his kennel is racing Iditarod and raising awareness for combat veterans. Larry Daugherty will be carrying prayer flags representing cancer patients to Nome. Daugherty specifically mentioned Paul Gebhardt who is being treated for cancer and also Jason Campeau who is recovering from injuries sustained in the Yukon Quest.
The Ceremonial start takes place on the first Saturday of March. The first sled to travel 4th Avenue driven by JR Iditarod Champion Bailey Schaeffer will carry Pam Redington. Pam will be representing her late husband Joee Redington as the honorary musher. Following the Honorary Musher will be Cody Strathe in bib number 2. Hugh Neff, wearing bib 68, will be the final musher to leave the ceremonial start line. Check the Iditarod webpage for a complete listing of bib numbers.