Just 300 people live in the Koyukon Athabascan village of Huslia, but for those lined up along the street leading to the Huslia dog yard and cheering in race leader Aaron Burmeister -- the first Iditarod racer ever to arrive in the mushing mecca of Huslia -- it felt a whole lot bigger. ?
"This is like winning the Iditarod," Burmeister said of the enthusiastic crowd as he bedded down his dogs, surrounded by the hundreds of villagers that came out to watch him be first into the checkpoint.
Burmeister didn't just collect the official GCI Dorothy Page halfway award and the $3,000 worth of gold nuggets that come with it. He collected an unexpected surprise when the community offered up its own award for the first musher-- a pair of beaded beaver mitts, a beaded cross and a marten hat.
Burmeister, who collected the halfway award in Cripple last year, was humbled by the support.
"I can't put into words how special this was," he said. "What a treat to have everyone out for me."
Defending champion Dallas Seavey, Norwegian rookie Thomas Waerner, Ken Anderson of Fairbanks, Hugh Neff of Tok and four-time champion Martin Buser followed Burmeister into Huslia Thursday night and Friday morning.