Iditarod 2021 ceremonial start canceled

Fabio Berlusconi of Lomazzo, Italy, leaves the start line before the ceremonial start of the...
Fabio Berlusconi of Lomazzo, Italy, leaves the start line before the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)(Mark Thiessen | AP)
Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 4:32 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The ceremonial start of this year’s Iditarod has been canceled.

The news broke late Friday afternoon through a press release from the Iditarod.

“While the Iditarod believes the future does not belong to the fainthearted, we take the health and well-being of our racers, volunteers, staff, and spectators very seriously. After consulting with our stakeholders and in consultation with the Municipality of Anchorage, we decided to cancel our traditional ceremonial start in Anchorage due to the COVID-19 concerns of a large gathering,” Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach said in a prepared statement.

Iditarod ceremonial start canceled

Watch live: Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach speaks after news broke that this year's ceremonial start had been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Read the full story here:

Posted by Alaska's News Source on Friday, February 5, 2021

The sled dog race was one of the final big events to occur in Anchorage last year before coronavirus mandates shut parts of the city down or limited capacity in many businesses. It was also during that time when the Anchorage School District, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy, closed schools down to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year.

Traditionally, fans line the streets in the downtown Anchorage area, as well as the trail itself as it snakes for 11 miles through the city to Campbell Airstrip.

Mushers, excitedly pulled by with their dog teams, give out high-fives and toss dog booties to children.

That won’t happen this year, affecting thousands of people who watch the race in person and the shops in downtown Anchorage that expect to make money during the race.

This year’s race brings several changes: Teams will run an 860-mile loop, the Historic Gold Trail Loop, that begins and ends at Deshka Landing near Willow.

The traditional 1,000-mile Willow-to-Nome route was dropped to protect villages on the trail from the coronavirus.

“It’s because of the covid situation we want everyone to be safe especially our competitors and volunteers and everything so there will be very very little if any spectator viewing here on that day.” Iditarod Race Director Mark Nordman said.

The start of this year’s race will be at Deshka Landing on an old airstrip leading to the Susitna River.

A field of 50 mushers will compete in this year’s race.

Alaska’s News Source is the official media partner of the Iditarod and you can watch the live start from Deshka landing on Channel 2 and CBS 5 as well as catch all the action and coverage throughout the race.

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