August 22, 2017

Eye on the Trail: Telephoto Story – Finisher’s Banquet 2017

The count down for Iditarod XLVI has begun. The clock is ticking in the left side bar on the front page of Iditarod.com. As time passes and the start of the 46th Iditarod on March 3rd of 2018 draws closer one second at a time, there’s no better occasion to look back at Iditarod XLV. Is there’s a better time than the present to reminisce about the past?

Sleds filled with huge strawberries serve as centerpieces at the Nome Finisher’s Banquet

The Finisher’s Banquet in Nome is a gala relaxed event, quite different that the Musher Banquet in Anchorage. The banquet in Anchorage is filed with expectation and celebration for the event to come. The banquet in Nome finds mushers celebrating accomplishments. Whether those accomplishments are in line with the expectations the mushers had in Anchorage or not, they’ve accomplished what they set out to do – reach the Burled Arch in Nome.

Strawberries dipped in white and dark chocolate are a “signature” of the Nome Banquet

A sled filled with huge strawberries is the centerpiece of each of the three buffet tables. Having been a little short on fruit for the previous two weeks, it’s not surprising to see mounds of those delicious strawberries go by on every musher’s plate. Some of the berries are dipped in fine white or dark chocolate. Whether plain or dipped, the strawberries are a “signature” of the Nome Banquet.

Mitch Seavey accepts the winner’s check, the Dodge Ram pickup and the Redington Trophy

The final musher to take the stage is the race champion. At the age of 56, Mitch Seavey set a new record for the oldest person to win and a new speed record in 8 days, three hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds. He had a remarkable race where everything came together. Mother Nature smiled.  Had she provided snow, winds along the coast, warmer temperatures, or overflow… Any number of number of cards that Mother Nature might have played could have changed Mitch’s race and left Dallas Seavey’s record in tact. But everything came together, Mother Nature played the hard fast trail card, Mitch crafted a sound race plan and he had a remarkable dog team. Congratulations Mitch!

Mitch shared stories of the race, during his time at the microphone. He praised his leaders, Pilot and Crisp. He thanked the Iditarod Trail Committee, the volunteers, the veterinarians and the communities as well as the villagers who hosted checkpoints.

The Redington Trophy

Just a story about Mitch in Huslia where he took his 24-hour rest. Mitch was in the community center where villagers brought food. Even though it was breakfast time, there were eight or so teenagers there seeking his autograph and a photo with their hero. Mitch signed and posed for many “selfies” with the musher. Then he went over to the food table. There were stacks of pancakes, bowls of boiled eggs, piles of bacon, plates of fried SPAM, numerous egg casseroles and a wide variety of muffins and breakfast rolls and breads. Unique to the breakfast theme was one freshly baked pumpkin pie. Mitch knew a good thing when he saw it and knew it wouldn’t be there when he came back in for lunch. Seavey started his breakfast feast with pumpkin pie!