Friday, March 6th, Anchorage
Friday found the teacher attending the Friday Speaker Series at the Millennium Hotel. There was quite a fascinating line up this year.
Katie Mangelsdorf, author of Champion of Alaskan Huskies, Joe Redington, Sr.’s autobiography spoke first. Katie’s book is a must read for anyone interested in learning the true story of how the race got stated and she is one of my favorite speakers to listen to. Her presentation is so full of images and stories of Joe and his time in Alaska, that by the end of it you feel like you are one of Joe’s best friends. And from what I have learned, he would have loved to know he has friends amongst the race fans.
The second group of speakers were a few members of “The Old Gang.” This group of people have gathered together to collect stories of the first ten years of the race and put them together into a scrapbook of sorts to preserve the stories and memories of the people who were instrumental in making the race into what it is today. Well… that scrapbook has turned out to be a 7.5 pound hardcover, self-published book! It’s a doozy! But it is amazing from the first page to the last. They contacted everyone who was involved in the first ten years of the race, and asked them to send their stories. They joked that they should have limited the contributions to a specified length – it may have helped with the poundage! Jon Van Zyle contributed some artwork. It is a true masterpiece. I had the good fortune to get to read much of it before it was published, but the final product just took my breath away. I’m going to be creating and publishing some lesson plans to coordinate with the book this spring.
After lunch, Dr. Stu Nelson joined us to talk to us about dog care on the trail and just how important it is to the race. The dogs are the Iditarod Trail Committee’s number one priority. This year, Dr. Nelson has a team of fifty-five vets working with him to ensure the safety of all of the canine athletes involved in the race. He talked about how the dogs are checked at each checkpoint and how the mushers and the vets are really a team out on the trail.
The final session today was the “Behind the Scenes” session. My job with that session was to spend the morning running around the Millennium Headquarters rounding up people who would come in and tell the teachers and other visitors what was happening at that moment to get the race ready. I guess I did a good job gathering people because we ended up going over time! The Insider Crew guys came in to tell us how things are going with their challenge to bring the race to as many fans as possible. They indicated that they love hearing from fans about what they would like to see. Joanne Potts came and talked about her role in making sure that all of the mushers have everything in place so they are ready to roll on Saturday. Molly, who is in charge of Communications, talked about the challenges of getting information from the trail to the website in a timely manner for race fans to see. She also talked about what it is like to volunteer on the trail in terms of gear and living arrangements. Sara Lamont, who is the handler coordinator for the restart, talked about the challenges that restarting in Fairbanks has brought to her job. I also had a few volunteers and Erin, the 2015 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail lined up, but it turns out we didn’t need them.
That evening, I made it back to downtown Anchorage in time to see them begin the process of trucking in snow to build the chute. What I hadn’t thought about until that moment was, not only do they need to build the main chute down Fourth Avenue, but they need to build almost mini chutes on all of the side streets where the dog trucks will be parked so that the teams can GET to Fourth Avenue. Now, in any given year this is a feat… but this year… YIKES! It’s warm, it’s raining, and who knows how far they had to go to get the snow! I’m hoping there is still snow when they are ready to start the race tomorrow…