Mushers perform standup comedy at Iditarod banquet

Mike Nesper
courtesy Jon Van Zyle

Mushers thanked spouses, children, sponsors, fans and, of course, their dogs Thursday when this year's 69 Iditarod racers drew bib numbers at the Mushers Banquet at the Dena'ina Center.

Some even threw in a joke.

"I got my age," Martin Buser said after drawing No. 36. He's actually two decades older.

Dallas Seavey, the 2012 champ, took a jab at his dad, Mitch, cracking wise about his age. Mitch Seavey, 54, is a two-time Iditarod winner and the defending champion.

Chugiak's Jim Lanier took the stage with a helmet -- protective headgear he wore all night. The 73-year-old said he plans to wear it during his 17th Iditarod.

"The helmet is not a joke," said Lanier, who expects a rough trail.

New Zealand's Curt Perano will be the first musher on the trail Saturday when the race's ceremonial start begins at 10 a.m. in downtown Anchorage. Perano, who will wear the No. 2 bib, said he'd rather go out a little later, but he said starting first in the Iditarod is an honor.

"It's a privilege to lead the race out," he said.

Bib No. 1 went to longtime Iditarod staffer Deby Trosper of Wasilla, the 2014 Honorary Musher. Trosper, who served as a race volunteer and staffer for two decades, died in August after a battle with cancer. Some of her ashes have been scattered along the trail at Rainy Pass.

A teary-eyed Steve Trosper, Deby's husband, said he was touched by the recognition.

"It's a wonderful honor," he said.

The tribute will be even more special because the Trospers' 9-year-old granddaughter, Charlie, will ride in the sled Saturday. Deby would have wanted that, Steve said.

"That's the person she loves most in the world," he said.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski was presented with the Iditarod Founders Award for providing a much-needed loan in the race's first year in 1973. Iditarod co-founder Joe Redington asked Murkowski, then president of Alaska National Bank of the North, to help provide prize money.

It was a great $30,000 loan, Murkowski said.

Murkowski was one of four Alaska governors at the banquet. Joining him were Gov. Sean Parnell and former governors Bill Sheffield and Sarah Palin -- all of whom were surrounded by crowds of people snapping photos with cameras and cellphones at the start of the banquet.

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