The Lakefront Hotel is a whirlwind of activity right now since it is the official Iditarod headquarters. I had an amazing day yesterday with the 2016 Iditarod mushers First, with the mandatory musher meeting, later with the IditaRider luncheon, and finally with the musher banquet and bib number drawing that night at the convention center. As a teacher, I was thrilled to learn more about the mushers, and finally get to hug the ones who have helped me so much with my posts this year, but as a fan, it was just plain fun!
I started off the day with a live Insider interview with Joe Runyan and Danny Seavey! I had spent last weekend with Danny at the Jr. Iditarod in Yentna, so we had a great time revisiting that amazing experience. They asked me questions about the Teacher on the Trail™ position, and what classrooms can expect from me on the trail.
I sat in the back of the Redington room as the mushers found their seats and their friends. They picked up a special piece of mandatory equipment…the mail! Each musher carries a cache of mail on the trail to commemorate the tradition of sleds carrying mail on the trail long ago. It is handed over to the postmaster in Nome.
I was so excited to say hello to so many familiar faces and especially to mushers who have helped me with my special lessons this year. Many had their official portraits taken by Jeff Schultz, and then they collected important information for the race, some wonderful Iditarod musher gifts such as headlamps and necklines for their sleds, then it was time for the race marshall, Mark Nordman, to review the rules. We all had to leave the room for this special meeting. The excitement was building for the musher banquet and the race start!
Mushers signed a sled for a give-away and auction item and then picked up their handouts and gear around the room John Baker gave away hats and dog bandanas to support his new initiative for the Native villages promoting health and wellness. It was very well received by the mushing community. Rookie musher Larry Daugherty stepped up and signed the sled, and he added words of encouragement:
After the musher meeting, fans, family and IditaRiders waited for the official portrait by Jeff Schultz:
The afternoon was made complete when I stood in line with many mushers to pick up my package of Beads of Courage. I will carry these beads along the trail for a child that is in need of encouragement and hope during a time of cancer treatment or other serious illness. What an honor to share this experience with such a special human being. I can’t wait to start this journey in Willow!