Of Teachers and Kidnappings and Feasting…

Thursday, March 5th, Anchorage

Thursday morning found the teachers back in the “classroom” of the Hilton, once again gathering strategies for ways to bring the Iditarod to their classroom.  The important thing that these teachers are learning is that you don’t really have to teach Iditarod as a separate subject, it can be the vehicle with which you bring your required curriculum to you classroom.  Two former Teachers on the Trail spoke, Terrie Hanke and Jane Baille.  They shared some stories and photos from their time on the trail and some lesson and project ideas.  The teachers then had the opportunity to explore some old Iditarod Runner Magazines and come up with some lessons that could be used with them.  These lessons will become a part of something I’m really excited to work on… the on-line Iditarod Museum.  I think it will be great fun to gather all of these historic items together, digitize them, and create lessons for teacher to use to bring the objects into their classroom.

Before lunch, I headed over to the Millennium Hotel which serves as race Headquarters during the race. The mushers were in meetings all morning and were scheduled to meet their IditaRiders for a pizza lunch.  I caught the traditional champagne toast, which this year included a special rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Race Marshall Marc Nordman.  Getting to go to the Pizza Lunch to see Nathan, Monica, and Philip was part of my “payment” for presenting and working at the conference and race this year!

2015-03-05 13.57.33After the lunch, I kidnapped Nathan and took him back to the Hilton with me so he could meet the teachers and have a short chat with them.  He started off a little shy, but once they got him talking about his dogs and his race he was off and running.  He talked about how he got started mushing and how Iditarod has always been one of his dreams.  He told a few stories from last year’s race, including how he got past Abbie West when she dropped her bib!  We heard the themes behind some of this year’s team’s names – the Cars – Lightning, Filmore, Miss Sally, etc.  It was great to have a chance to hang out with him some before the banquet too.  He seems to be in great spirits.  He is focused on the race and ready to go.  He’s hoping to better his placement from last year and hoping for a top ten finish. It’s going to be tough to do with this year’s field, but I think he can do it if he stays focused.

This evening was the Musher Banquet.  We finally know the musher’s starting order!  The banquet is a great chance for the fans to meet and mingle with the mushers.  The mushers have tables filled with their family, sponsors, and friends and then even more tables are packed to the gills with fans who are thrilled to be a part of the action.  I had a chance to talk with Monica and her partner Tim Osmar for a bit.  I met Philip’s wife and his son PJ.  I thanked Matt Failor again for letting us visit his kennel.  And greeted lots of other mushers who I had  a chance to get to know last year. After entertainment provided by none other than Hobo Jim, they did a fundraising auction and gave away a snow machine to one of the mushers.  You’ll never guess who won… Nathan!  Now how is he going to get that thing back to Minnesota?  Dinner was served, the autograph chute was lined up, and finally we got down to the business at hand.. . the start order draw.

2015-03-05 21.20.14On the day of the picnic last summer, the names of the mushers who signed up that day (or prior by mail) were put into a sack and were randomly drawn to create the order in which they would sign up.  The mushers who signed up later than the picnic, drew in the order they signed up.  So Ben Harper was the first to draw.  It is quite a long, and drawn out process, with 78 mushers who need to take the stage.  They come to the stage, take their numbers, thank their sponsors, and then begin their procession through the autograph chute.  Nathan estimated that it would take him two hours to get through the line!  I don’t know if his estimate was true or not… but when I realized he was almost done, I hopped into the end of his line to tease him about how many people wanted his autograph… he retaliated by signing my arm with his Sharpie Permanent Marker!

It was wonderful to see school kids around the country represented at the banquet too!  Schools sent in centerpieces to be used at the banquet.  Ours were a big hit!  Monica, Philip, and Nathan all had one at their table, so that was great fun!  Lots of people picked them up and took them home as a reminder of the evening.

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The mushers now have their start order, their musher handler arm bands, their dog tags, and have the day tomorrow to relax and make their final preparations for Iditarod 2015!  So exciting!

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