The biggest dog day of the summer provided plenty for Iditarod fans to buzz about Saturday.
Lance Mackey is coming back, Jeff King has a new look and the Busers and Seaveys are doing the father-son thing again.
Mackey, the four-time champion who is one of Alaska's most popular and beloved characters, was one of 60 mushers on Saturday who entered next year's sled-dog race during the annual volunteer picnic at Iditarod headquarters in Knik.
The 44-year-old from Two Rivers skipped this year's race due to health and financial concerns. Instead of preparing his dogs for the 1,000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome this winter, he was racking up tens of thousands of dollars in dental bills to repair damage inflicted by throat cancer.
Mackey is one of five champions who signed up Saturday. The others are four-time winners King, who showed up with a buzz cut, and Martin Buser, who sported a big bandage on his left hand, and the father-son duo of Mitch Seavey and Dallas Seavey, winners of the last three races (Dallas this year and 2011 and Mitch in 2012).
King was poised to win a fifth title this year, pulling into White Mountain, 77 miles away from the finish line, with a healthy lead. But fierce winds and brutal cold pinned down King and his team on the Bering Sea coast and their race ended just a few short miles from Safety, 22 miles from Nome.
Buser, the early race leader, placed sixth and won the coveted Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for outstanding dog care. He did the entire race with a dislocated finger and recently had surgery on his hand.
His son Rohn, the winner of this year's Kusko 300 and Knik 200, and will race the Iditarod for the third time, and the first since 2012, next March.
Also entering Saturday were two race favorites who have come painfully close to winning but are still looking for victory -- Aliy Zirkle and DeeDee Jonrowe.
Zirkle has been a close second in the last three races, losing twice to Dallas (2014, 2012) and once to Mitch (2013). Jonrowe, who last year scratched for the third time in 32 races, owns two runner-up showings among her 16 top-10 finishes.
Mushers have until Dec. 1 to enter the race.
Reach Beth Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
2015 Iditarod entries
(listed in order of the draw at next year's prerace banquet)
(R) designates rookies
1) Ben Harper, Wasilla (R)
2) Dallas Seavey, Willow
3) Kristy Berington, Kasilof
4) Gwenn Bogart, Wasilla (R)
5) Pete Kaiser, Bethel
6) Lance Mackey, Fairbanks
7) Lisbet Skogen Norris, Willow
8) Ellen Halverson, Wasilla
9) Richie Diehl, Aniak
10) Mitch Seavey, Seward
11) Rick Casillo, Palmer
12) Seth Barnes, Nenana (R)
13) Matt Failor, Willow
14) Travis Beals, Seward
15) Curt Perano, Willow
16) Mats Peterson, Sweden
17) Charley Bejna, Wasilla
18) Philip Walters, Eagle River (R)
19) Justin Savidis, Willow
20) Hugh Neff , Tok
21) Cindy Abbott, Irvine, California (R)
22) Jaimee High, Willow
23) Jan Steves, Edmonds, Washington
24) Scott Janssen, Anchorage
25) Alan Eischens, Wasilla (R)
26) Allen Moore, Two Rivers
27) Monica Zappa, Kasilof
28) Sarah Stokey, Seward (R)
29) Paul Gebhart, Kasilof
30) Marcelle Fressineau, Whitehorse, Yukon
31) Becca Moore, Willow (R)
32) Nathan Schroeder, Chisholm, Minnesota
33) Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Rana Norway
34) Aliy Zirkle, Two Rivers
35) Michelle Phillips, Whitehorse Yukon
36) Anna Berington, Wasilla
37) Thomas Wærner, Norway (R)
38) Paige Drobny Paige Fairbanks
39) Kelly Maixner Kelly Big Lake
40) Isabelle Travadon, France (R)
41) Laura Allaway, Fairbanks (R)
42) Ken Anderson, Fairbanks
43) Lachlan Clarke, Buena Vista, Colorado
44) Nicholis Petit, Girdwood
45) Rohn Buser, Big Lake
46) Ray Redington Jr., Knik
47) Jim Lanier, Chugiak
48) Lev Shvarts, Willow (R)
49) Mark Sellend, Anchorage (R)
50) Yvonne Dabakk, Fairbanks
51) Gerald Sousa, Talkeetna
52) Karin Hendrickson, Wasilla
53) Brian Wilmshurst, Dawson City, Yukon (R)
54) Rob Cooke, Whitehorse, Yukon (R)
55) Martin Buser, Big Lake
56) Jodi Bailey, Fairbanks
57) DeeDee Jonrowe, Willow
58) Jeff King, Denali Park
59) Linwood Fiedler, Willow
60) Jessie Royer, Darby, Montana
By BETH BRAGG