Sunday, June 26, 2011

Iditarod 2011 BBQ

Every year the Iditarod puts on a feast for their volunteers, and they hold it the last Saturday in June. This ties in with their first meeting of the minds for the next year's race, and the mushers are on hand to sign up. But, even with all of the excitement of the future, the main focus is to celebrate the people who are helping NOW.

I had never attended previous BBQs, something either always came up - or I wasn't aware of it - and so I made it a point not to miss out on it this year (I flaked last year at the last minute because the weather looked icky). I got up super early because the BBQ is in Wasilla (yeah, you know, it's pretty well  known thanks to a certain former Governor of ours) and being in Soldotna I was about 3.5 hours away. My vehicle has issues right now so I had mom take it the night before to have dad check it out. He was unable to due to some technical difficulties, so I drove my mom's car back to their house, dropped my dog off, took my iffy exploder and headed out (parents live in Kenai so it's 4 hours to Wasilla).

The trip was uneventful - aside from rain and my running out of windshield wiper fluid - nothing really happened to warrant a whole lot of time on it. I was running later than I wanted to be, but still made it to Wasilla well before picnic time.

Holding little "Tusty".
I planned on meeting up and snatching Haille to come with. I figured she'd enjoy the games and puppies I knew would be there. The puppies were the saving grace, she never did go play the games, as she was in love with the seven week old and two week old pups that were out there for HQ guests and BBQers alike. I think if she could take them all home, she would! She was in love with getting to hold them and play with them. She asked questions of the musher and handlers that were there, and at one point Jeff King went over to look at the pups and she talked to him too! How crazy is that?! Little miss shy thing!

My first goal was to find my wonderful friend, Lilian. I met her two years ago volunteering at the Iditarod gift shop table there at the Millennium hotel (which is the official headquarters during the race). She comes every year from Switzerland and is a big favorite of all of us. And not just because she brings us swiss chocolate! Ha ha! She normally doesn't make it over here in teh summer (she takes her vacation around the Iditarod every year! She is my hero!) but she made the exception this year and I'm so glad she did! Haille really liked her, and took a ton of photos of her with my $3000 camera ha ha! She got a couple of good ones of the two of us!

Still have NO idea what we were going for here! LOL

Even though the weather threatened rain, the day was pretty much perfect. A lot of mushers were on hand to sign up for the race (so far the roster is at 47), and some old favorites also came to talk shop (it also helps that they are on the Trail Committee so they were on hand for a meeting before the picnic). Team Seavey was out in full force with Dan, Mitch and Dallas all there. Dallas and Mitch are both in next year's line up. Mitch is still sporting a brace of some sort on his finger (which he sliced off in Ophir causing the Race Marshal to scratch the musher from the race and send him back to Anchorage for surgery. Mitch was back on the trail as a special Iditarod Insider commentator that same week.). Mitch spent a lot of time talking with 2011 Champion John Baker and they seemed to be having a great time talking about what ever it was that they were talking about!

Lance Mackey was "late" to the party, but he strolled right up without much notice from the crowd and signed his name. He'll once again be after #5, trying to tie Rick Swenson (who was absent from the picnic and - so far - the roster!) for most wins. It wasn't long before people realized the head of "Last Chance Kennel" was on the green and soon they flocked to where he stood.

If you read my blog at all you know I'm not a big follower of Mackey's kennel. I prefer others to his style. However, friends of mine from MO were huge fans. They lived in Joplin, MO, and lost their lives in the huge tornado last month. It still seems unreal that Lorie and Glenn will not be around to chat about the Iditarod next year. Lorie was looking forward to see my pictures of the BBQ and had dared me to take a picture with Lance if I got the opportunity. I just laughed at the time. But, when I went into the line with my friend Lilian so she could get her pic with him, I figured I should honor their memory. One thing I have always said about Lance is that he knows how to treat the fans/volunteers.

Me, Lance, Lilian. This is for you, Lorie!
I also had to fan girl over Hugh Neff. He's just such a great personality on the trail, and I love his overall look. He's pretty much fantastic when it comes to dog care and racing in general too, so that's always a plus! Ha ha! I went over and got my picture. He tried to put me at ease by asking if I was a musher and he laughed at my "WHAT?! no." reaction. Ha ha, Hugh. You're *so* funny. goober. I think I just have a "mushers please make fun of me" sign somewhere on me. But the pic came out great, I love it, totally going in my next collage frame!

The last mission of the day was getting our picture with Jeff King. That's right Mr. "I'm Retired" was there. He had most of us buzzing wondering why he was there. He'd posted about the BBQ on his facebook earlier in teh week and when fans asked if he was coming back he pretty much denied it. Well, he lied online because he announced at the end of the BBQ that he was - in fact - on the roster for Iditarod 40. This is a huge boost for so many reasons. Jeff was a face of the Iditarod during the same time as Susan Butcher (he really came into his own as she was on her way out of the sport, but his name was on everyone's lips before then). He's considered the winningest musher. He's a huge celebrity type in Alaska/the sport. And, he pushes Lance to excell. Who knows what will happen now. It's a huge roster already, all the main players (save for, as I said earlier, Rick Swenson) have thrown their name in the pool.

We waited quite a while while Jeff talked with Jim Lanier (another fabulous musher, I was totally geeking out by the end of the day), and Dallas Seavey finally figured out what it was we were waiting for (it wasn't hard Haille was wanting to go home and made a bit of a scene) so he interrupted Jeff and he hopped over to mug for the cameras. Then we were stuck trying to find someone to take the picture. We finally had no choice but to allow Dallas handle the repsponsibility. He lit up when I handed him mine and immediately tried to freak me out by pretending to drop it. Bubba would have been in a world of hurt. Told him that was a 3000 dollar camera. That made him even more of a pain. Why do I like this guy again? LOL Cuz his kid is cute, that's why! LOL

Thanks, I guess, Dallas! (Me, Jeff!!!, Lilian)
Overall it was a fantastic day and I'm glad I made the trip up and back in one day! (8 hours round trip! Long day, well worth it!)

To see all the pics from yesterday go here -

Cannot wait for March!

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