While the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race might be defined by booties and fur-rimmed parkas, the banquet can be a different beast all together. There are still Carhartts and Bunny Boots and plenty of polar fleece pull-overs, but among the usual is the unusual.

Take for instance the "Distance Divas" – veteran mushers Jodi Bailey, Kelley Griffin and Michelle Phillips – who have a long-standing banquet tradition of hitting up a local thrift shop before the event and picking out the most fabulous frocks they can find.

"Mushers don't get out a lot," Phillips said, wearing a dark blue satin cocktail dress and matching headband. "And we definitely don't get a chance to dress up."

But amid the the dress up (or lack thereof) is a purpose. The banquet serves as the last official gathering before mushers head to downtown Anchorage Saturday for the ceremonial start of the 41st running of the race. It's at the banquet that mushers get to greet fans, get an early scoop on the competition and -- most importantly -- draw their bib numbers.

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