By TOM HINTGEN
Fergus Falls Daily Journal, Minn., (MCT)
A taste of Alaska sled dog racing came last week to Cleveland School in Fergus Falls, Minn. Three third grade classes entered 15 teams in Iditarod competition, with five teams from each class. Teachers are Vicki Hanneman, Kim Kamrowski and Karen Schneck.
“The kids are having fun, so are we adults watching them,” said Lisa Pelletier while watching her daughter, Leslie, on the snow-covered hill just south of the elementary school.
Also on hand to watch the competition were Leslie’s great-grandmother, Rosann Sauck, and her grandfather, Paul Jaros. Standing nearby was Jade Goulet, watching her daughter, Atlanta.
“The kids have been excited about this (Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race) for many weeks,” said Goulet. “They couldn’t have picked a better day than today to have the competition.”
Each team included a musher and four dogs. Volunteers held
Willow and Nome signs. The four dogs on each team had special
positions determined by the team. One was the lead dog, another the swing dog, a third was the team dog and the fourth, which was nearest to the sled, was the wheel dog.
In the real races in Alaska, teams frequently race through blizzards. A ceremonial start occurs in the city of Anchorage and is followed by the official restart in Willow, a city in the south central region of the state.
The trail runs from Willow up the Rainy Pass of the Alaska Range into the sparsely populated interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. The trail is through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across rivers.
While the start in Anchorage is in the middle of a large urban center, most of the route passes through widely separated towns and villages. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic link to the early history of the state and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.
“It’s great that the kids can not only have some fun today, but also learn more about what the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is all about,” said Pelletier.