The trail in downtown Anchorage was built over night. Dog teams arrived well before 8:00 to park on the side streets and along Fourth Avenue. Festivities at the banner near 4th and “D” lead up to the first musher taking the trail at 10:00 am. Early on, light snow began to fall and by the time the final teams covered the eleven miles to Campbell Air Strip, it was just plain snowing. Temperatures were in the low twenties and the winds were light. It was a perfect day for the spectators and media to enjoy and capture the excitement of the Last Great Race®. It was a perfect day and perfect trail for the canine athletes. The Iditarider experience was made even more magical by the falling snow.
Andrea “Finney” Aufder Heyde had the honor of cutting the ribbon on 4th Avenue. In 1999 Finney served as the very first Teacher on the Trail. 2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of sending a teacher out on the trail to be the direct liaison to classrooms around the world. Thirteen Teacher on the Trail Alumni were on hand to celebrate the 20th anniversary.
Pam Redington of Manley Hot Springs represented her husband, Joee Redington, as the Honorary Musher for the 2018 Iditarod. Joee was honored for his leadership in Manley Hot Springs as checkpoint organizer during the three years the race has started in Fairbanks. Joee is the son of Iditarod founder, Joe Redington, SR.
Four Countries are represented in Iditarod 46. Fifty-six teams are from the United States. Eight teams are out of Canada, two teams from Norway and one team from Sweden. With Alaska being the 49th State, it’s a nice coincidence having 49 musher from the state of Alaska. Other states represented are Washington, Kansas, Michigan, New York, Iowa, Montana and Illinois.
Of the sixty-seven mushers making the run to Nome, fifty-one are veterans and sixteen are rookies. There are fifty-two males and fifteen females. Dog mushing is a sport where men and women compete on an equal basis.
For DeeDee Jonrowe, today’s ceremonial start was bitter sweet. Jonrowe announced earlier this week that she’d be retiring from Iditarod at the end of the 2018 race. This will be her 36th start. Of her 35 previous races, she’s finished 32. Sixteen of those finishes have been in the top ten. DeeDee caught the mushing bug in the late 1970’s from her mother, Peg Stout. Peg learned about the race and became a volunteer. She encouraged DeeDee to try the sport. Over the years, DeeDed has been very successful at the sport. She’s an inspiration to women and girls, she is a cancer surviver and is one of the most popular mushers of all time.
The Restart will take place in Willow on Sunday. Cody Strathe will lead all mushers onto the trail at 2:00 in the afternoon. Mushers will depart at 2-minute intervals.Hugh Neff will be the final musher to take the trail.