Saturday, June 24, 2023

Twenty six teams sign up opening day for Iditarod 52

Mushers, Volunteers, and fans came together Saturday for the annual Iditarod Picnic and Musher Sign Ups. Musher registration opened at 9:30am and it wasn't too long before social media was abuzz as the first names popped up online. By the end of the day, 21 mushers would sign up in person with 5 sending theirs online. 

Alaska has been under some very wet weather since at least April (and if you count all the snow accumulated all winter and how 2022's summer ended we can safely say it's been nearly a year of WET), but the sun broke through the clouds with only a light breeze. While the gathering still felt small, it was the general consensus that the overall look and feel of the picnic this year was far more positive. As names were added to the list under the registration tent excitement grew. As always, mushers hovered near to get a glimpse at how many were on the roster in direct competition for winning back their entry fee. 

By noon there were ten names signed up in person and three online. Last year fourteen signed up in person with eight choosing to send in their application electronically. Last year there were no Iditarod champions on site at HQ during the picnic, this year there were three. The atmosphere felt different, nearly normal. Aside from a still smallish crowd, and the fact that the teacher's conference was being held in the lower 48 this year, the picnic felt very similar to those from the last 50 years.

Riley Dyche was first in person to sign up - not surprising as he is running tours at HQ this year and was hard at work throughout the entire picnic giving rides to guests at $10 a pop. Rookie of the Year for 2023 Eddie Burke was next, with several rookies behind him. Fan favorite Hunter Keefe is once again running dogs out of Ramie Redington's kennel. Dallas Seavey Racing was on hand at the picnic as rookie Isaac Teaford signed up for his first Iditarod followed by the Five-Time Iditarod champion.

That's right, Dallas's "taking time off until my kid doesn't think I'm cool" plan is over... his daughter turns 13 in another month and hinted that she's ready for dad to get back to racing. Still, it was surprising when he took a seat at the table and handed over his already filled out paperwork and credit card over to the crew.

Brent Sass made the drive down to throw his hat in the ring. The 2022 Iditarod Champion chose last summer to register from "somewhere on a beach", but this year he decided to do so in person. As his "Wild and Free" truck pulled into the parking lot the tables were buzzing in anticipation. 

Also buzzing was Barbara Redington who kept tabs on the Junior Iditarod sign ups (her grandchildren both signed up at the picnic, racing each other to see who would get that number one slot... Ellen won) as well as trying to find out where her son - reigning champion Ryan Redington - was. Dressed in a button up shirt (with sponsor logo Inukshuk Dog Food), Ryan finally made his way into the picnic to sign up. Ryan was all smiles as he was greeted and congratulated by friends and fellow mushers.

Jessie Royer made her way back to Iditarod last year after the pandemic kept her away due to border issues, but this year she was able to once again attend the picnic. She reported that she was very sore as she had an accident with her horse and was pretty bruised up. She was all stories and smiles at the picnic, though, and if she didn't tell you about the accident you wouldn't know.

Seeing Double Racing Kennel were all present for the picnic, but only Anna Berington signed up to run Iditarod 52. Anna was overheard saying how she and Kristy plan to split the races this year due to the make up of the kennel this year.

Registration in person closed at 2:30pm with the drawing for which two mushers would win back their entry fee being held at 3pm... at about 2:58pm Nicolas Petit arrived to sign up. Petit was giving tours and hoping to have a sponsor to be able to make the entry fee - it took a little longer than he thought but he made it and after a quick talk with officials he was allowed to make the roster before they announced the winners of the raffle.

Rookie Joshua Robbins won the dog food ladle and dog dishes, Dallas Seavey won 500 dog booties.
And then what the mushers were all waiting for, the entry fees, were decided - Eddie Burke Jr. and Brent Sass were able to get their refunds same day this year. Brent was overheard saying that it was worth the drive!

Mushers caught up with each other, as they also celebrated the number of dogs going back to 16 (Jessie Holmes responded with "as it should be!"). CEO Rob Urbach made his rounds chatting with most of the mushers. At the end of the picnic he announced that there was a Musher Incentive program they would have this year where each musher would be getting their own link to share to sell Insider subscriptions and other Iditarod merchandise with a percentage to be shared with the musher.

21 mushers signed up in person, 5 online. Of those signed up officially on the first day, 8 are rookies. There is known to be at least one more musher who has sent in their application, so expect the list to grow in the next few days as rumor is there are several that didn't make the official list today (applications in the mail/sent in after closing of registration today).

Riley Dyche
Eddie Burke, Jr.
Josi Thyr (R)
Connor McMahon (R)
Jason Mackey
Jeff Deeter
Hunter Keefe
Lauro Eklund (R)
Isaac Teaford (R)
Dallas Seavey*
Jessie Royer
Jessica Klejka
Brent Sass*
Gabe Dunham (R)
Mille Porsild
Joshua Robbins (R)
Anna Berington
Jessie Holmes
Ryan Redington*
Travis Beals
Mats Pettersson
Rob Cooke
Bryce Mumford (R)
Erin Altemus (R)
Matt Hall
Nicolas Petit
* Notes past Champion
(R) Notes Rookie status

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