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McGrath checkpoint quiet as racers continue along the Iditarod trail

McGrath checkpoint quiet as racers continue along the Iditarod trail
McGrath checkpoint quiet as racers continue along the Iditarod trail(Taylor Clark/KTUU)
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 8:34 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Monday, the McGrath checkpoint was quiet aside from the few volunteers, pilots and vets helping put on the race in addition to the town’s residents. Soon enough, the mushers of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and their dog teams will be livening things up a bit.

There were a number of sleds ready at the checkpoint for mushers to swap out. Volunteers spent the end of the day lining the checkpoint with straw for the dogs and supplies for the teams flown in prior.

Most of those volunteers will likely spend the duration of Iditarod at the McGrath checkpoint. Chief of the Iditarod Air Force Ed Cornfield said that’s the case at all of them aside from select volunteers. It’s all to help keep people from mingling, lowering the risk of COVID-19 complicating the race.

“We’re putting twice the amount of material there — the straw and the musher bags that we normally do,” Cornfield said. “And a lot of the volunteers are going to stay out there. The vets are going to stay in one place for the most part.”

As for pilots, Cornfield said there are 22 this year when they usually have up to 30.

It’s not only volunteers getting ready to greet the mushers and help them along the trail. Some residents are showing up too, like the Sturm brothers.

While they are excited to see the mushers come through town like they always do, they’re hoping to make a little bit of money with their new business: a hot chocolate stand called Loco Cocoa.

According to Titus Sturm, it was his brother Gabriel’s idea. It’s fairly new. Gabriel Sturm said they started it during the last Iron Dog race.

It turns out selling hot chocolate to cold athletes isn’t a bad business model. They said they’re planning to set up for every race that comes through town.

The brothers said they’re going into this race knowing it won’t be like the races they grew up with.

“Well normally, the roads are like crowded with people and everyone’s like cheering when the dogs come in. People are leading them to their places,” Titus Sturm said.

“Usually my dad is the person who helps the dogs in and we’re usually up until like one or two in the morning,” Gabriel Sturm said.

With investments into the business made, including branded aprons, the brothers said they’re going to enjoy Iditarod 49 as much as they can, and be back for Iditarod 50 and onward — hopefully with longer lines.

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