the afternoon progressed, many interesting facts unfolded and little
splinter groups were hashing out their thoughts on this new adventure.
Many that I talked to seemed excited that they would be doing something
different, something historic, as the trail goes on such a different
route than ever before. This will be the first time the route follows
the northern and southern trail in the same year. Jack Niggemeyer
calls it "Idita-Detour." T-shirts with the older version
of the new route were sold out early as they might be collectors
items of a sort. Mayor Leo Rasmussen introduced us to Urtha Lenharr
who is a first grade teacher in Nome. Urtha was at the finish line
for the 1973 Iditarod and in 1978 ran the trail with the Race Director
and some mechanics to become the first group to travel the trail
via snowmachine. He ran the race in 1991. He sat with us awhile
as did Richard Burmeister also of Nome, who designed the belt buckle
that all the mushers receive the first time they complete the race.
There are 541buckles now and Bill was #540 last year.
Mayor Leo had the trail mail all packaged but needed
some help putting out promotional materials prior to the banquet.
We would've been there right on time had Jordan not locked the keys
in our truck. A local taxi driver was able to get us unlocked for
$10. The info included the list of Idita-week activities in the
City of Nome, info on the trail mail that each musher carries and
brochures about joining the Iditarod National Historic Trail. Bill
and Thomasjohn solicited members all during the evening. http://www.iditarodhistorictrail.org/
is the web site but it is not fully functional yet.
The huge staff of Sullivan Arena and volunteers set
the tables, making sure each place setting was perfect," salads
with tomatoes at 6 o'clock," and local girlscouts had made
mini-tripods as centerpieces. The crowd began to pour in about 6PM
quickly turning the Sullivan into a mass of fans and friends of
Iditarod, plus dignitaries. Colonel Norman Vaughn,
95+ year-old Adventurer and last remaining member of the Byrd Antarctic
Expedition 1928-30, was present. He completed the Iditarod in 1990
at the age of 83. What a neat fella to talk to!! Hobo Jim played,
the National and Alaska anthems were sung and dinner was served.
Dinner, however, is not the point to the Musher Banquet as everyone
had posters, programs, photos and even ticket stubs autographed
by mushers. The drawing for starting positions began later in the
evening and had I been on my toes by then, I could've told you who
had which Bib Number. I can say that Clint Warnke drew #65, John
Baker drew #2 and will leave first. Bib #1 went to honorary mushers
Howard and Julie Farley who were instrumental in getting the first
race off the ground in cahoots with Joe Redington Sr. Cali King
will leave before Jeff King and Martin Buser also drew a low number.
The crowd was pretty thin by the time the banquet wound down about
11:30PM. The grand prize drawing for a lucky couple from Dothan
Alabama was a $2500 trip to Maui. They were happy they stuck around
til the end!!