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‘You don’t sleep much, but that’s okay’: The volunteers of Iditarod make the race happen

Iditarod volunteers in McGrath
Iditarod volunteers in McGrath(Taylor Clark/KTUU)
Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 9:22 PM AKST
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MCGRATH, Alaska (KTUU) - Mushers have started to arrive at the McGrath checkpoint, with most of the frontrunners planning to declare their 24-hour mandatory rest there. Days before their arrival, the Iditarod volunteers were busy making sure the teams had a good place to recuperate.

Coordinating the effort is Matt Anderson. He said with around half the number of volunteers as usual, and far less help from the surrounding community because of COVID-19, they’re doing more work with less hands.

“It’s at least half,” he said. “Actually if you add all the volunteers then we probably have a dozen people from town that fit in here and there in different places and help.”

Anderson said everyone is working more. Even those with the Iditarod communications team in charge of the check ins are out setting trails and hauling back up sleds and straw.

The new race has attracted a couple of new volunteers, however.

The checkpoint is located in a hangar right off the Kuskokwim. It’s where Hayley Batt usually stores her airplanes. This week, it’s storing mushers.

“They said, ‘well we need some place that’s not right in the middle of downtown for COVID safety’ and the owner goes, ‘well, my hangar’s right on the edge of the river and it would be very easy for the trail to come up right off the river. We wouldn’t have to go through town,” Batt said.

So she and other pilots made way, moving their planes out into the snow so the mushers and dogs wouldn’t have to be.

They’ve had it piled on, rolling with every punch and working hard to put on the race. They’re happy to do it though.

“This is Alaska’s Super Bowl,” Anderson said. “I don’t watch football or the Super Bowl. I wait for this all year.”

“You don’t get a lot of sleep, but that’s okay,” Batt said.

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