And the race continues. Well, the dog sled race just started, but the race to prepare for and logistically run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race continues.
Even as mushers were running with their Idita-riders from the ceremonial start Saturday, more volunteers had begun work for the re-start at Willow. Equipment had to be picked up and taken out to Willow. Groups of volunteers unrolled fencing and put lathe out to line the start chute all the way across the lake.
On Sunday, more volunteers showed up. Remember, many had already volunteered one or (many) more times. A large group of folks, around 85 people, is in the area through Grace Works Alaska. Some came from Tennessee and some from Georgia, some are university students on spring break, some are adults, but they all are in the area to serve the community. They had already spent a few days in Anchorage working with students at the Boys and Girls Club as well as tutoring students at Wonder Park Elementary. They spent the weekend as trail guards, dog handlers, parking attendants, and security for the race. When talking to Alan Hix, a professor at Shorter University who has brought students up for 6 years, he explained that it is mission work through community outreach and building relationships.
Sponsors of the race are honored and advertised on banners at the banquets, ceremonial start, restart, and in Nome. Who puts them up? Who takes them down? Meet Joe, “the banner guy”. Joe has been a dedicated race volunteer for 8 years and recently moved to Alaska. Each year he gets the banners and makes sure they are hung in the right order and taken down at each Iditarod event. Those banners don’t just show up without the work of Joe and his crew.
Of course, the dog handlers are another vital contingency of those who just want to be a part. Some work at both the start and re-start. It’s an exciting and physically challenging job to hold on to a world class race dog that is about to start a race. Restart Dog Handler Coordinator, Sarah, herself a volunteer, met with the group there Sunday and explained the process. She then assigned handlers to teams until all teams had the handlers they needed and left the starting chute.
Dave and Jill were there all day standing outside cooking up hamburgers and hot dogs for the other volunteers. They manned the tables cheerfully and with a sense of humor. When asked what the specialty was, Jill quipped there would be lobster tails later in the day. Not only were they outside all day Sunday, they were trail guards for the entire ceremonial start on Saturday.
Volunteer power in the thousands. That’s what the Iditarod Trail Committee relies on and is so very thankful for.