Iditarod 2019 is drawing to a close in Nome. Nome embraces the race in a big way. And last night was the finisher’s banquet at the Nome rec center. But it’s not only the banquet that takes coordination here. On Saturday, Dawn Ubelaker, Iditarod Nome Coordinator, had a few minutes to explain a bit about what happens in Nome come Iditarod time.
She is quick to mention the many, many people that make everything happen. She says that the City of Nome is a fantastic organization to work with, and she would know, being the former cemetery manager and a current independent contractor as an Animal Control Officer. An anecdote about meeting Pete Kaiser as he crossed the finish line: Dawn picked up Nome mayor Richard Benneville and got him to the finish line to greet Pete. Afterwards, she stopped to pick up a loose dog before taking him home.
The burled arch and finish chute are prevalent landmarks in Nome. Of course, they aren’t always standing on Front Street. Come finish time, they need to be taken out of storage, ‘dusted off” so to speak, and set up. The finish chute needs built up with snow for the safety of the dogs and sleds.
Nome has had snowfall in amounts not seen for a long time. Since January, there have been 18 winter storm warnings and feet of snow piling up. It would be an understatement to say that the snow removal workers have been on call and busy. If snow removal or relocation is needed, they are up and doing it. Streets get closed and the ramp off of the ice onto Front Street gets built. Many thanks to Joe Horton, the public works department head, for that and other jobs that need done. Dawn says they are phenomenal.
Dawn also complimented the Nome Police Department supporting safety patrol volunteers in being extra eyes for folks in need around Nome.
Lodging and vehicles for the Lakefront Hotel chef staff from Anchorage that prepare the banquet meal needs coordinated. Nome Public Schools donated the use of their kitchen facilities for food prep. The chef staff also use the donated facilities of Norton Sound Regional Hospital.
And Sunday? Well, it’s a marathon day. Starting very early in the day, all banquet crew work on getting tables and chairs from the mini convention center, Old St. Joe’s and sometimes, city hall. Banners from the start chute need taken down and re-hung there as well.
With help from Chip Leeper of the parks and recreation department, Scott Jenkins and folks from Alaska Missions do a huge amount of….well, whatever needs done. At the rec center the tables and chairs are set up, a sound system gets put in place, beverages are iced and serving areas set up. During the banquet, there was trash pickup, beverage replenishment, food tables to be manned and cleaned up and on and on and on. After the official festivities, when the attendees were finding their way home for the night, the banquet volunteers had hours of work left to do with breaking down and collecting trash.
As this article is being published, days more of work will be done by the wonderful volunteers and workers in Nome. Everything done can now be “undone”.
The role of Nome coordinator fits Dawn well. She has a background in outdoor and parks and rec activities. She loves the energy of the Iditarod and feels it makes people happier and nicer to each other. The Iditarod Trail Committee appreciates her, the City of Nome, and all volunteers greatly and knows that without their help, the race could not be run.