Ceremonial Iditarod start brings crowds in Anchorage

Ceremonial Iditarod start brings crowds in Anchorage

  • By Mark Thiessen
  • Saturday, March 1, 2014 10:39pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Hordes of dogs, mushers and their eager fans mingled Saturday at the jovial celebratory kickoff of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage.

Sixty-nine mushers and their teams of 16 dogs each inundated Alaska’s largest city for the annual ceremonial start of the race in a fan-friendly atmosphere. The real race starts Sunday, 50 miles north of Anchorage.

Early Saturday morning, musher trucks lined city streets, and fans like Nancy Alstrand of San Diego spent hours meandering from musher to musher, stopping to chat or pet dogs.

“Absolutely love the dogs,” Alstrand said shortly after taking a picture of one Husky with her iPad. “It infects you, their energy does, and it just makes you so happy.”

Her brother lives in Healy, Alaska, and they intend to make attending the Iditarod start an annual family reunion.

Later in the morning, mushers left the starting gate two minutes apart in the staggered launch to the race. Each carried an “Iditarider,” a person who won their seat on the sled in an auction.

The mushers take a leisurely 11-mile jaunt on urban trails within the city of Anchorage. Snow had to be trucked in to cover the streets of downtown Anchorage until mushers could get on the trail system.

A lack of snow and warm temperatures have been a headache for Iditarod officials this winter. In fact, temperatures in Anchorage were in the mid- to upper 40s in the days preceding the start.

Officials had considered moving the official starting point hundreds of miles north to Fairbanks, but said conditions had improved in the weeks ahead of the race to keep it in Willow, outside of Anchorage.

Concerns about the trail were in areas south of the Alaska Range and in the mountains themselves, race marshal Mark Nordman said. But snow and especially colder temperatures after a long January thaw have alleviated worries there and in areas such as the Yentna River.

“I think the thousand-mile wilderness trail is going to be a little bit of mystery no matter what, if it’s warm or if it’s cold, or it’s windy, or if it’s raining,” said musher Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers. Zirkle has finished second each of the last two races.

“Every single year, I have to say, I go into it thinking, ‘What is it going to be like?’ And I don’t think this year is any different. I think it’s going to be hard, tough.”

Another fan favorite is veteran musher DeeDee Jonrowe, a breast cancer survivor whose signature piece of apparel is a hot pink parka.

“We’ve been out there a lot of years, I’ve seen them all,” she said of trail conditions. “I’m sure it’s not going to be anything I haven’t seen at some point of my career.”

There are six former champions in the field, including defending champion Mitch Seavey, also the 2004 winner.

“We’ve had really good training, real good conditioning,” Seavey told reporters. “We’ve been able to get all our training done, all our miles. I feel really ready, and real happy with my team.”

“I’d like it to be,” Zirkle said when asked if it was her year to win the Iditarod.

“The team is not a wild card; it’s the best team I’ve ever had,” Zirkle said. “But it comes down to what a musher’s prepared for, what their skills are, if they make the right decisions at the right time.”

After Sunday’s start in Willow, mushers will travel nearly a thousand miles, crossing two mountain ranges, the Yukon River and up the Bering Sea coast en route to the finish line on Front Street in Nome, on Alaska’s western coast.

Photo by Molly Dischner/Alaska Journal of Commerce Jr. Iditarod champion Conway Seavey's dogs waited for the ceremonial start of the 42nd Iditarod Saturday March 1, 2014 in Anchorage. Seavey, of Sterling, led 69 other mushers in the ceremonial start from downtown Anchorage to the Campbell Creek Science Center.

Photo by Molly Dischner/Alaska Journal of Commerce Jr. Iditarod champion Conway Seavey’s dogs waited for the ceremonial start of the 42nd Iditarod Saturday March 1, 2014 in Anchorage. Seavey, of Sterling, led 69 other mushers in the ceremonial start from downtown Anchorage to the Campbell Creek Science Center.

Photo by Molly Dischner/Alaska Journal of Commerce  Handlers Jimmy Miller and David Phipps get Monica Zappa's dogs ready for the ceremonial start of the 42nd Iditarod Saturday March 1, 2014 in downtown Anchorage.

Photo by Molly Dischner/Alaska Journal of Commerce Handlers Jimmy Miller and David Phipps get Monica Zappa’s dogs ready for the ceremonial start of the 42nd Iditarod Saturday March 1, 2014 in downtown Anchorage.

More in News

tease
House District 6 race gets 3rd candidate

Alana Greear filed a letter of intent to run on April 5

Kenai City Hall is seen on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai water treatment plant project moves forward

The city will contract with Anchorage-based HDL Engineering Consultants for design and engineering of a new water treatment plant pumphouse

Students of Soldotna High School stage a walkout in protest of the veto of Senate Bill 140 in front of their school in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
SoHi students walk out for school funding

The protest was in response to the veto of an education bill that would have increased school funding

The Kenai Courthouse as seen on Monday, July 3, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Clam Gulch resident convicted of 60 counts for sexual abuse of a minor

The conviction came at the end of a three-week trial at the Kenai Courthouse

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meets in Seward, Alaska, on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (screenshot)
Borough awards contract for replacement of Seward High School track

The project is part of a bond package that funds major deferred maintenance projects at 10 borough schools

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President LaDawn Druce, left, and committee Chair Jason Tauriainen, right, participate in the first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Four Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
4-day school week committee talks purpose of potential change, possible calendar

The change could help curb costs on things like substitutes, according to district estimates

A studded tire is attached to a very cool car in the parking lot of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Studded tire removal deadline extended

A 15-day extension was issued via emergency order for communities above the 60 degrees latitude line

A sign for Peninsula Community Health Services stands outside their facility in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, April 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
PCHS to pursue Nikiski expansion, moves to meet other community needs

PCHS is a private, nonprofit organization that provides access to health care to anyone in the community

Jordan Chilson votes in favor of an ordinance he sponsored seeking equitable access to baby changing tables during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs ordinance seeking to increase access to baby changing tables

The ordinance requires all newly constructed or renovated city-owned and operated facilities to include changing tables installed in both men’s and women’s restrooms

Most Read