It's official...the 2009 Iditarod has begun. This is the Ceremonial start to the race, and runs from Anchorage to Eagle River. Then they will do a restart in Willow and head to Nome. Originally, the race did start in Anchorage and go all the way to Nome, but due to weather and population changes over the years, they had to make some adjustments to the race. This all started out as way to get mail and supplies to remote areas of Alaska. Then in 1925, it became part of history when sled dogs were used to carry Diphtheria serum to Nome and saved countless lives. Now the race is a way to commemorate those events in Alaskan history. If you'd like to read more about the race and follow the sleds on an interactive map, then check out the official website. Yes, you can even order a hat and t-shirt!
We couldn't have asked for a better day to start the race. The sun is shining and the skies are blue. It is a tad cold outside (It's 22 degrees with a wind chill of 15), but nothing unbearable. This is one of those days where all the activity is downtown. Crowds line 4th Avenue in anticipation, waiting to get a glimpse of their favorite musher. The south has Nascar, we have the Iditarod. Some people prefer to watch from the parking garage. You are a little farther away from the action, but it does provide a great view. One by one, the teams line up to start. The announcers give the mushers name, as well as a little background information about them like where they live and how long they have been training. Then they are given the clear, and they head out. The crowds go wild, cheering and clapping.
Because this is a short leg of the long journey to Nome, the race officials take advantage of it to raise money to help pay for the race expenses. They have an auction prior to the Iditarod, and people can bid on a chance to ride on a sled from Anchorage to Eagle River. Each year, sponsors purchase rides and donate them to charities such as the Make A Wish Foundation. There are other auctions, too, so be sure to check them out when you visit their official site.