Behind the Scenes
by Don Bowers
It takes so much more than a field of willing mushers and anxious sled dogs to run the Iditarod Trail Race. With an annual budgetof almost two million dollars, the Iditarod Trail Committee depends on a hard working force of volunteers and supporters to raise the necessary money all year around. An annual sweepstakes isheld. Various items are sold at fairs and benefits. Banquets are planned in both Anchorage and Nome. This volunteer force and the loyal supporters from both the private and business sector make the race possible each year.
Information headquarters are set up in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Nome and Wasilla during the race to disseminate information and race standings to the public. Volunteers man each of the 20+ checkpoints, some of whom spend their vacations on the trail. A complex communications net is set up that covers the course offering logistical support, emergency communications and an information source for race officials. The “Iditarod Air Force” is a fleet of small privately owned bush planes flown by volunteers, shuttling dog food and mushers’s supplies to each checkpoint, moving veterinarians and race officials up and down the trail and hauling tired dropped dogs back to the major pickup points. A group of veterinarians from all over the United States, and sometimes even from Europe, take time out from their busy practices to assist with dog care duties along the trail. Trail breakers on snow machines proceed the field of mushers, cutting trail, marking trail, and packing trail in windswept areas, trying to give each team a safe path to follow.
Without these volunteers, there wouldn’t be a race. Their efforts save the committee thousands of dollars which would be impossible to raise. Their dedication and involvement is what this truly Alaskan event is all about.