Dena’ina Convention Center was alive Thursday night for the annual Musher’s Banquet! I had been waiting for all week for this event! This is an exciting evening for both the public and the mushers.
The evening started with the musher meet and greet. The meet and greet is an excellent opportunity for the public to meet the musher’s, get an autograph, and even a picture. It was amazing to walk around and meet all the mushers I have been following on the Iditarod Trail for so long.
One musher I was able to talk with was Jeremy Keller. Jeremy will be mushing for the second time in this years Iditarod. His first race was 12 years ago in 2007. During our conversation, Jeremy mentioned that he had taken time off from mushing to raise his family. Now, he is back in the Iditarod with the support of his wife and kids. One of his sons was with him at his table, showing his support.
Another musher I was able to talk with was Sebastien Dos Santos Borges, a rookie from Chazey-Bons, France. I had met Sebastien at the vet checks in Wasilla on Wednesday, where we talked about the dogs on his team. I was great to see him again and wish him luck on the trail.
As the meet and greet ended, we made our way into the main conference room for the banquet. When I entered the room, I felt like I was walking into a dream. People were everywhere, Iditarod merchandise was being sold, and Hobo Jim was on the central stage singing! Hobo Jim is an Alaskan legend and is known for The Iditarod Song and Reddington’s Run, which both commemorate the Iditarod.
After a fantastic meal, it was time for the mushers to draw their bib numbers for the start of the Iditarod. The drawing of the bib numbers is divided into two groups. The first group to pick their bib numbers are the mushers who registered for the Iditarod at the musher’s picnic on June 30, 2018, by 2:30 pm. The second group is the mushers who registered any day or time after June 30, 2018, at 2:30 pm. Each musher is called to the stage to draw their number out of a traditional Mukluk boot.
There were 53 bib numbers drawn tonight, for the 52 mushers in the Iditarod this year. An honorary musher traditionally is given bib number 1. This year, both Ed and Cathy Rasmuson were designated honorary mushers, because of their work with The Rasmuson Foundation.
Musher Anja Radano, of Talkeetna, Alaska picked bib number 2 and will the first to start the 47th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday!