Remembering 40 Years of Iditarod. . .

The 2012 Iditarod is the 40th running of the Last Great Race®.   Remembering 40 years of Iditarod… .

These memories were first shared on our Facebook page as snippets of history remembered and gather the stories together as articles for this website.

Remembering 40 Years of Iditarod. .  .

The Original Iditarod Trail Committee members were: Al Hibbard, Big Lake, Ed Carney, Wasilla, Vi Redington and Joe Redington, Sr., Knik, and Dorothy Page, Wasilla. The committee was expanded to include Jack Hale and Bob Fleming, both of Anchorage.

In the 1976 Iditarod Trail Annual, Dick Mackey is quoted as saying, “When I tell people that the Iditarod can be unbelievable tough and yet enjoyable, they look at me like I have rocks in my head.”

Bill Vaudrin, 1976 Iditarod Trail Annual stated,  “The Iditarod appeals to everything in me.. There’s some parts you’ll never lose about waking up in your sled in the morning hundreds of miles out on the trail. With eight or ten of your favorite dogs staked out around you in the snow for company: rousing yourself up to start a fire, and passing your eyes over the incredible country stretched out to the horizon in every direction…maybe you pick out a pale green mountain in the distance, and warm your insides with the assurance that before you camp again, you’ll be on the other side of it, looking back. And all the country in between – the hills and the trees and the rivers and the valleys – well all that country will be yours. It will belong to you in a way that no one could ever annul or diminish, because you will have staked the only claim to it that the land itself recognizes: you will have penetrated to the heart of it- and become a part of it- and it will have become a part of you.  Forever.”

Did you know that about 500 people were on hand to see the 32 mushers at the 1976 ‘ End of the Trail Banquet in Nome on March 29 of that year? Before the awards presentation began, they ate a dinner of baked ham with pineapple sauce, baked potatoes, salad, and jello dessert. This banquet was held at the National Guard Armory in Nome. Al and Jo Crane were in charge of the banquet arrangements. Ralph DeVilbiss provided the potatoes for the banquet. The ‘Nome Mother’s Club’ set the tables. The ‘Beta Sigma Phi’ group made the salads. The ‘Nome Homemakers’ filled the sour cream cups. Helen Fagerstrom made the jello. Bertha Adsuma helped bake the ham.

Here’s what Iditarod Champion Joe May had to say about the banquet, “That was the first real meal some of us had had in three weeks. Harry Sutherland and I did the last 400 miles of the race on 3 linear feet of caribou sausage and a box of frozen blueberry pop tarts. I think we were never the same again.

The 1982 Iditarod Race Headquarters was located at the Anchorage Sheraton and opened Friday, March 5 and closed Sunday, March 28. Headquarters was open from 7 AM to 11 PM. A total of 34 volunteers put in over 1, 300 hours of work. 5 People worked more than 75 hours each. 19 of the volunteers had volunteered the previous year. 15 were new volunteers.

Did you know that…. in 1982, the mushers stranded in Shaktoolik due to weather conditions “were playing a game of basketball with the Shaktoolik Papas and, because they didn’t have basketball trunks or tennis shoes along, were playing in their longjohns and stocking feet.” This according to Jim Brown, Photographer for the 1982 race. Anyone care to share more about this? Were you there? Does anyone have any pictures of this?

Joe May tells us, “I was there, asleep behind the couch at Lynn and Hannah Takak’s house. I think Jerry Austin organized the game. Terry Adkins and Herbie stayed at Takak’s also. Was the year Herbie stalled out halfway to Koyuk in a storm and almost ended his career.”

According to the 1983 Race Annual, Joanne Potts stated, “We had six outside phone line and direct lines to both the downstairs sales desk and the HAM headquarters on Government Hill as well as the house phone.  We tried to keep four people answering phones all the time and one person on the computer all day.  We had six outside phone line and direct lines to both the downstairs sales desk and HAM headquarters on Government Hill as well as the house phone.”

In the 1983 Trail Annual, Joe Redington, Sr. shared his famous recipe for Honey Balls- a snack he gave to his dogs. 60 lbs of pure Montana honey that has never been heated, 250 lbs of lean ground beef, 5 gallons of Safflower or corn oil, 2 gallons of wheat germ oil, 10 lbs of brewers yeast, 10 lbs of multiple vitamins, 3- 10 lb cans of whole powder eggs.

Jim ‘Sourdough’ Strong of Hope, placed 26th in the 1982 Iditarod. According to his wife, the nickname, ‘Sourdough’ came from Jim’s ability to make Alaskan sourdough biscuits and hotcakes.

Reflecting on his victory, Joe May said, “Many of us drive the race to prove something either to ourselves or to the world. My satisfaction is personal and complete. That I won is incidental and not essential to that satisfaction. The certain knowledge of having done justice to the dogs and myself under difficult conditions is certainly, for me, the sweetest prize.”

Joe May recently stated on our Iditarod Facebook page, “Yes, a lot of the humor of the early races has been lost to the seriousness of winning i.e. the musher who carried half a frozen pig in his sled for dog food or the one who stopped in the burn for a day to hunt ptarmigan or the guy who carried a chainsaw to cut firewood. It’s more of a race than a survival contest now and some might call that progress..different appreciations. The cold feet and frozen fingers are all but forgotten and what remains are the good memories. 30 or 40 years will do that. Time is kind that way.”

Help us celebrate and honor the past 40 years of Iditarod.  Check us out on Facebook and watch for the Remembering 40 Years of Iditarod factoids. Next month, we’ll bring you another Remembering 40 Years article containing those memories and additional information.

We’d like your help!  Be a part of sharing 40 years of Iditarod, by sharing your experiences, memories, or photos.  Send us an email and we’ll share your thoughts on the website and on our Facebook page.  OR visit our Facebook and share your memories on the Facebook page! It’s time to celebrate the 40th running of Iditarod together, as the Iditarod family!


By Diane Johnson, Iditarod Education Department