A child. A grandfather. A family. A ski team. A lifetime Alaskan. A tourist. All of these describe fans that gathered at the Campbell Creek Tract and airstrip this morning to welcome the 2019 Iditarod mushers to the end of their ceremonial start run which started at 4th Ave. and D St. in downtown Anchorage.
Like the race field, the fan base for the Iditarod is diverse, drawing followers from literally all over the world. But what they all have in common is enthusiasm for the Iditarod and love for the dogs.
So, who shows up in the cold and stands for hours cheering on mushers as they pass by? Well, here are some of the folks that were there today.
Lieutenant Rob was stationed in Anchorage some 15 years ago, and he remembers that he was in charge of food service on the base. At that time, he recalls big pots of chili being cooked up for the mushers. After being assigned other places, he is over the top excited to see the race, being back in Anchorage since August, and he wants to become a volunteer for the race next year.
A family of 3 from the valley was in for their first ceremonial start experience, having heard about for the 4 years they have lived in Alaska. The father works for Ryan Air, an Iditarod sponsor, so he thought he’d bring his family down to check it out. Their 2-year-old daughter even knew what was going on; she told me she was there to see dogs.
A couple of members of the United States Coast Guard had come from Sitka and Kodiak to witness their first ceremonial start. One said that since she is stationed in Alaska, she wants to take in all things Alaskan, and the Iditarod is certainly that.
There were many groups that are annual spectators. They come dressed for warmth and bring chairs and snacks and race guides. Some of the kids told me that the dogs are “cute” and “look like wolves”. Then they held their hands out to high five mushers and got a few dog booties handed to them for their efforts.
A former high school teacher from Bethel invited his mother in Rhode Island to visit during the race. She loved the weather today and said seeing the Iditarod was part of her “bucket list”.
There were even Jr. Nordic skiers taking lessons with the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage. Their coaches brought them down from Service High School to watch the beginning mushers before heading back up the hill.
It should be no surprise that fans of all kinds lined the race route this morning. The mushers were happy, friendly, and interactive and the fans were eating it up. Besides, who can resist the dogs?