Ceremonial Start vs. Restart

Hi Boys and Girls,
Have you ever wondered why there are two starts to the Iditarod? The ceremonial start is what I and only I call the “party” start. It takes place on the first Saturday of March in Downtown Anchorage. The mood is festive. The dogs trucks and teams are lined up and down 4th Avenue in starting order. Fans are able to talk to the mushers, take pictures, and sometimes even pet the dogs. There’s nothing better than a good belly rub before a long run. The dogs are also wearing bandanas or special team dog coats. Only 12 dogs run on the start team instead of the usual 16. A few of these dogs may not have made the final team but are able to run in the Ceremonial start as long as they passed their vet check.
There are also two other main differences between the two starts. At the Ceremonial Start, an Iditarider gets to ride in the sled basket. An Iditarider is a person who won a bid in an auction for this privilege. Each team has an Iditarider in their sled. The teams also have a dragsled. A drag sled is a second sled attached to the back of the first sled. The driver of the dragsled is experienced in mushing. The reason for the dragsled is help slow down the team. The dogs are so excited and there are so many people along the trail that using only 12 dogs, and having a dragsled makes it a safer run for all involved.
The restart happens the day after the Ceremonial Start. It usually starts in Willow but that is dependent on the amount of snow in the area. The mood is much more serious. The mushers and teams are preparing for a long race and are very focused. While the fans come to watch the start, they do not mingle among the teams, talk to the mushers or pet the dogs. Instead of an Iditarider, the sleds have a sled bag full of supplies for their journey. And there is no drag sled. The mushers can have up to 16 dogs at the restart. Most mushers do start with 16. Once they leave the restart line, they’re off on their great adventure to Nome.
Good luck to all the teams. See you in Nome!
Happy Trails,