Brenda's 2003 Daily Iditarod Coverage
Countdown to Iditarod 2003 Restart — Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
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March 21
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February 26, 2003
Meetings and Parties surround Iditarod Today....and more rain.

First stop today was the Marriott Courtyard in Anchorage for the Annual meeting of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Inc. This is a group whose purpose is to locate, preserve, maintain, promote and provide informations about the Iditarod National Historic Trail System. President, Leo Rasmussen, was conducting the meeting. Also there was VP Dan Seavey from the Seward end of the trail (Mile Zero) and Bill Devine who designed the Joe Redington Sr. bronze statue for ITC Headquarters, among many others. Main topics of discussion were the building of two more shelter cabins, trail signage near the actual checkpoints of the race route and how to increase membership. If you are interested in joining, you can contact the group at P.O. Box 2323, Seward AK 99664. Memberships range in price from $15 for students to $75 for contributors. Wouldn't it be nice to have an identifiable trail, even in summer, that could be hiked, biked, or otherwise used by visitors and residents alike? Interpretive signs and special tripod markers could soon be all up and down the Iditarod Trail if this group has its way.

Press credentials were given out at a briefing at 3PM at the Millenium Hotel. Since I am reporting for Cool Dreams and Bill is reporting back for the Weather Channel, we were among this group too. When Joanne Potts asked who in the room had not covered the race before, laughter burst out when 4-time Champ Doug Swingley raised his hand. He is reporting for local TV KIMO this year. It was announced that one more musher (Kelly Williams) had withdrawn today, bringing the number of dogs on 4th Avenue on Saturday to 1024. There was a good deal of discussion on a shortened start from 4th Avenue but that they fully expect to gather and spread enough snow to cover the full 11 miles to Campbell Airstrip. Borrowing a special machine from the Municipality of Anchorage and the Anchorage Ski Association that will pulverize ice into something like snow seems to be key to making the Iditariders' trip all that it should be. Stan Hooley said that it had been tested and it works and he is confident!! After the meeting, Doug Swingley and Lew Freedman retired to the bar to make their picks for the Top 20 Finishers. This should be published in Anchorage Daily News tomorrow or on

The new trail will bring changes in where certain awards are given this year. For instance, the Penn Air Spirit of Alaska Award normally given for the first musher into McGrath, will be given to the first into Ruby. The prize is an original spirit mask created especially for this event and $500 credit in air travel with Penn Air. The Dorothy Page Halfway Award which is given in even years in Cripple and in odd years in Iditarod will be presented this year in Eagle Island on the FIRST trip through, the downward trip. The prize for this is $3,000 in gold nuggets and a trophy. The Award for First Musher to the Yukon will be given to the first musher OFF the Yukon at Kaltag, the second time through. This award is a seven-course dinner and $3,500 in cash.

Ramy Brooks supporters had a reception at the Captain Cook Hotel. Teacher on the Trail, Cassandra Wilson, grabbed us in the lobby of the Millenium and asked us to go along. We met new friends there and enjoyed seeing Ramy to wish him the best this year. He was raised on the Yukon and is happy that the race will be mostly run on the river. John Baker's Group had another party for volunteers and his sponsors at the Millenium. Good food, lots of fans and friends, good speakers all made for a nice gathering. More folks from outside are arriving daily and it is always good to catch up with friends from the trail. Bill had fun telling stories on Rudy to both of his sons who were up for their first Iditarod experience.

Where is the snow going to come from??? Nobody said but sure enough, Bill and I saw a truckload of snow heading towards downtown as we were driving home tonight. Dump trucks will work all night long on Friday night to bring in snow and have the Ceremonial Start ready.