Bib numbers. Do they really matter in the Iditarod?
To the legendary Redington family, this year, a lot. Two grandsons of the "Father of the Iditarod," Joe Redington Sr., will bookend the race.
Ray Redington Jr. will start Saturday's 40th Iditarod with bib No. 2 (the first racer to leave the starting line, following the honorary No. 1 slot). His brother, Ryan Redington, will go out last with bib No. 67.
To others in the race, it varies with the situation.
"It depends on who you're talking to and if they're BSing you or not," said Hugh Neff, last month's Yukon Quest champion.
Neff is back for his ninth Iditarod and drew No. 27 in Thursday night's 2012 Mushers Drawing Banquet at the Dena'ina Center.
It was all humans and no dogs for the last time before Saturday's 10 a.m. ceremonial start three blocks from here. There are dogs all around downtown Anchorage. You can sense them; smell them even.
They're champing at the bit.
The dogs are the stars of the show, but it was the sled dog drivers, the ones who'll eventually make the difference between winning and losing, who talked about sponsors and mushing and lack of parking on a festive evening.
"I'm stoked," said Dallas Seavey of the mushing Seaveys. "This is going to be the closest, most exciting Iditarod ever."
Dave Olson of Knik, an original Iditarod trail buster, was honored as the 2012 Leonhard Seppala Honorary Musher. One of those tireless volunteers behind the scenes, many folks thought this honor was long overdue.
A four-time Iditarod finisher, Olson toiled out of the public spotlight in the early years of the race. Olson would jump on a dog team or snowmachine, clear trail, scout routes, and groom the Iditarod race trail.
As a competitor, Olson raced in the Iditarod in 1973, 1974, 1980, 1983, and 1984. He also shouldered one of the biggest responsibilities of the race as Iditarod race marshal in 1986.
Andy Baker, the Iditarod board president, related the story Thursday of how Olson was notified that he'd been selected.
"Dave said he was completely surprised," Baker said, "and he told me that he really didn't care to be honored.
"Wait a minute, let me put you on speaker phone so the 60 people in the room can hear you say that."
"I could hear people laughing, clapping, and hollering, so I knew there was no backing out of it," Olson said. "I told Andy and the board that I was honored and would do whatever I could to help out the Iditarod."
Olson will be listed as Musher No. 1 and is scheduled to follow the race to Nome and meet the 2012 champion at the finish.
Other tidbits from Thursday's bib draw:
Dallas Seavey drew No. 34 and his brother Mitch drew No. 35. "That's the last time he'll be ahead of me," joked Mitch.
"Retirement was boring," said Jeff King, the four-time winner who hung up his sled two years ago." King drew No. 10 on Thursday. "That's an awesome number. I'll see you all on the trail."
Paul Gebhardt drew No. 25 and said he was happy he wasn't in single digits. "I don't think you want to be in front early in this race," he said.
Peg Stout was honored Thursday by race committee education director Diane Johnson. Stout, a retired librarian, runs the "Iditaread" program and was cited for getting more than 1,000 youths to read about the Iditarod.
The Iditarod start list (the first musher is honorary):
2) Ray Redington Jr., Wasilla
3) Jim Lanier, Chugiak
4) William Pinkham, Glenwood Springs, Colo.
5) Tom Thurston, Oak Creek, Colo.
6) Jodi Bailey, Chatanika
7) Wade Marrs, Wasilla
8) Cim Smyth, Willow
9) Nicolas Petit, Girdwood
10) Jeff King, Denali
11) John Baker, Kotzebue
12) Kelly Maixner, Big Lake
13) Michael Suprenant, Chugiak
14) Aliy Zirkle, Two Rivers
15) Pat Moon, Park Ridge, Ill.
16) Trent Herbst, Anchorage
17) DeeDee Jonrowe, Willow
18) Lance Mackey, Fairbanks
19) Travis Cooper, Big Lake
20) Kelley Griffin, Wasilla
21) Ramey Smyth, Big Lake
22) Mike Santos, Cantwell
23) Gerry Willomitzer, Whitehorse, Yukon
24) Sigrid Ekran, Sparbu, Norway
25) Paul Gebhardt, Kasilof
26) Michelle Phillips, Tagish, Yukon
27) Hugh Neff, Tok
28) Peter Kaiser, Bethel
29) Jake Berkowitz, Big Lake
30) Jaimee Kinzer, Willow
31) Kristy Berington, Kasilof
32) Anjanette Steer, Sheep Mountain
33) Anna Berington, Kasilof
34) Dallas Seavey, Seward
35) Mitch Seavey, Seward
36) Bruce Linton, Kasilof
37) Scott Janssen, Anchorage
38) Justin Savidis, Willow
39) Ken Anderson, Fairbanks
40) Jan Steves, Edmonds, Wash.
41) Martin Buser, Big Lake
42) Colleen Robertia, Kasilof
43) Karin Hendrickson, Wasilla
44) Aaron Burmeister, Nome
45) Ed Stielstra, McMillan, Mich.
46) Ryne Olson, Two Rivers
47) Kirk Barnum, Grangeville, Idaho
48) Hank Debruin, Haliburton, Ontario
49) Bob Chlupach, Willow
50) Brent Sass, Fairbanks
51) Mike Williams Jr., Akiak
52) Matt Giblin, Juneau
53) Zoya DeNure, Gakona
54) Silvia Furtwangler, Pischelsdorf, Germany
55) Josh Cadzow, Fort Yukon
56) Karen Ramstead, Perryvale, Alberta
57) Matt Failor, Big Lake
58) Gerald Sousa, Talkeetna
59) Sonny Lindner, Two Rivers
60) Rick Swenson, Two Rivers
61) Curt Perano, Atline, British Columbia
62) Rohn Buser, Big Lake
63) Braxton Peterson, Fairbanks
64) Art Church Jr., Willow
65) Dan Seavey, Willow
66) Lachlan Clarke, Buena Vista, Colo.
67) Ryan Redington, Wasilla
John M. Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com or 257-4356.