Monday, June 29, 2015

Picnic marks start of Iditarod 44, 62 mushers sign up first day

Dad and I got up somewhat early Saturday to make the four hour drive to Wasilla for the Iditarod volunteer picnic that happens the last Saturday in June every year. It's a way for the Iditarod to thank the many volunteers that help the race run smoothly, and is also serves as the ITC annual board meeting/voting and is the first day mushers can sign up for the next year's race. The Iditarod Teachers conference also attends so fans/volunteers/teachers all mingle with the mushers (past, present and future). It's low key, but still a nice way to connect and reconnect when it's hopefully not so cold and you can actually see faces without a parka hood.

This was my dad's first picnic, and he didn't take long to go around and embarrass me by talking about me to people I know or admire, but I should be used to that by now, right? The picnic's attendance seemed lower to me than in years past, but with the fires all over the state that was kind of expected. According to the Iditarod's press release after the event, 37 mushers were at Headquarters to personally sign up, another 25 signed up via mail. There are 5 Iditarod champions already in the mix (Both Seaveys, Martin Buser, Jeff King, and Robert Sorlie) as well as 10 rookies.

The picnic was catered by Golden Corral a loyal sponsor of the Last Great Race - they had pulled pork and all types of picnic goodies. PenAir (another awesome sponsor) flew in Bristol Bay salmon that was the hit of the day for many. The weather played nice as it was overcast but incredibly warm, and the bugs stayed away for most of the day. During the door prizes they announced they still had quite a few volunteer tshirts that they were going to give away - so I'm the proud owner of one - and that sent dad in full on autograph mode. Once again my dad never fails to embarrass, but as I told him - after he dies I get the shirt so in that way I guess I win! ;)

The Redingtons were out and about running the regular tours (as they still have tourists stopping by to learn about the race and the dogs) and a sign was posted saying all proceeds from the tours Saturday would go to the Willow Dog Mushers Association's fund to help the mushers who lost their homes in the Sockeye River Fire! The volunteer sign in area also had a box collecting monetary donations for the WDMA fund. One generous donor took their winnings from a raffle (4-5,000$ worth) and donated it to the fund. It was a good day to show support and solidarity.

The mushers and volunteers soon mingled into their typical groups and swapped stories of the trail, of the fires, and their summer activities. Mushers kids also grouped up and played and charmed their way into whatever it was they needed. Volunteers and teachers searched out autographs and listened and hoped for their number was called so they could win a door prize (I won a tshirt). Overall just a really successful event for the Iditarod.

The press release to read the list of the first 62 mushers to sign up (as well as the order they will draw for their bib numbers during the musher's banquet next year) you can click the link here.

I should be nice to my dad and say that he wasn't the only one embarrassing me... I did it to myself. We sat at Paul Gebhardt's table while eating and we weren't really a part of his conversation, but I always love listening to mushers talk shop so I was eavesdropping. Paul had mentioned DeeDee Jonrowe had been there earlier that morning and signed up but had left before the picnic began (with everything that happened during the fire, I can imagine she didn't want to be overwhelmed). A fan came up with Jeff Schultz's book "Chasing Dogs" (fantastic book, FYI) and asked Paul if he was in it - I had to chuckle at that, of COURSE he is, he's one of the more recognizable mushers racing! - and he said he didn't doubt he was. So she asked him if she knew what page he was on, and he said no. I jumped into the conversation and jokingly said "page 112" - the woman's husband was all "she said 112!" so I had to explain I really had no idea I was just making it up. Paul started turning pages and said something like "well, let's take a look anyway," sure enough he IS on page 112. I swear I am NOT a stalker - well, not much of one anyway - but everyone at the table had a good laugh and I was beet red for a good long while.

The big question I've seen since Saturday is where is Kristy Berington. The Berington twins normally run races together, but lately Anna's been on her own - this mushing season will follow suit. Talking with Anna Saturday she revealed the plan is for Kristy to run the Yukon Quest. Anna made a joke about her sister ditching her, but says it will be an interesting and new experience since she's never run the Iditarod without Kristy (whereas Kristy has run it without Anna). Things could change, Anna said, but that's the plan for now.

And, yes, I did take a few pictures...

The Mushin Mortician, Scott Janssen and wife Debbie
chatting with Paul Gebhardt while Scott fills out paperwork
to enter Iditarod 44.
There are more photos under the tag. To see them: 

Janssen talking with musher Anna Berington about sign-ups
and how he would pay for her entry fee as well (he sponsors
Anna as she runs some of his dogs).

Scott Janssen and Anna Berington talk as a fan comes up to ask for the
Mushin' Mortician's autograph.

Three time and reigning Iditarod Champion, Dallas Seavey is always up
to conversation at the picnic.

Two time Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey chats with his daughter-in-law
Jen, and his niece Haile.

Four-time Iditarod Champion Jeff King made sure to keep his paperwork with
him while he chatted with friends and fans.

Janine Seavey with granddaughter Annie Seavey having a serious
discussion about hair care. Annie says she has a "good imagination."

Jeff King has "a take notice walk."

Yes, that's my dad getting Paul Gebhardt to sign his volunteer tshirt.
Thank you Paul (and really all the mushers) for letting him be a dork!

Musher Jodi Bailey chatting with official photographer Jeff Schultz and
last year's rookie Rob Cooke (seated).

Jodi signs one of two red lanterns that were auctioned off on facebook
to help with funds for the WDMA's Sockeye Fire donations.

Justin Savidis of Snowhook Kennel collecting his winnings of the musher's
raffle. I don't remember what it was he won.

Four-time Iditarod Champion Martin Buser won 500 dog booties.

Nicolas Petit in a sort of Musher's GQ look? The boots are the best part.

DeeDee Jonrowe was absent from the picnic portion, but returned for the
musher drawings. She signed the red lanterns that were auctioned off
on facebook.

Martin Buser also signed the red lanterns that were auctioned off.

Mitch and Scott chat it up waiting for the entry fee raffle winners to be
revealed. (DeeDee Jonrowe and Ellen Halverson won their entry
fees back.)

Race Marshal Mark Nordman thanks all the volunteers for their support
over the years and says he's looking forward to another great race.

DeeDeeJonrowe is a class act.

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