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At Nome Banquet, Fans Cheer Iditarod Finishers — And a Few Who Exited the 2019 Race

Iditarod fans stand and cheer Pete Kaiser in a large gymnasium, converted into a banquet hall.
At Sunday night’s banquet, a standing ovation for Pete Kaiser, 2019 Iditarod champion. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

39 finishers from Iditarod 2019 were celebrated Sunday night at the awards banquet in Nome. In the spotlight was Bethel musher Pete Kaiser, the first Yup’ik person to win the race.

The nods at the finishers’ banquet, however, extended beyond just the finishers. Nicolas Petit, who scratched along the Norton Sound coast, received several trail awards. Golovin, a community on the trail that is not an official checkpoint, received strong praise from 4th-place finisher Aliy Zirkle. And cheers even went to former top rookie of the year Richie Beattie, not from the Iditarod Trail Committee — which withdrew Beattie from the race on Saturday after the death of one of his sled dogs — but rather from fellow mushers and race fans.

KNOM’s Davis Hovey reports:

The ITC says one of Richie Beattie’s dogs, Oshi, was exhibiting signs of pneumonia during post-race checkups on Thursday evening following Beattie’s finish in Nome. The five-year old female dog was transported to an animal hospital in Anchorage on Friday afternoon and passed away around 6:30pm the following day.

Iditarod’s Rule 42, which was updated and adopted this year, dictates that if any dog death occurs during the race, then “the musher shall scratch or be withdrawn from the race, except in the case of an unpreventable hazard.”

The ITC states that a withdrawal does not imply any deliberate misconduct or violation, as set forth in Rule 51. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) issued a statement calling the incident a case of a musher pushing a dog to its limit which led to the dog’s death. PETA is openly opposed to the Iditarod and says “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.”

Ed Hopkins, who finished an hour behind Beattie, in 22nd place, received the Rookie of the Year Award during Sunday night’s banquet, but has pledged the winnings will go to Beattie instead.

“I feel pretty uncomfortable being up here right now. I hate gaining on somebody else’s misfortune. I always thought through hard work and perseverance you pretty much get your just reward. So, in saying that, I accept this on Richie Beattie’s behalf, and it will go to Richie Beattie. Thanks.”

[audience applauds]

Other notable mentions from the festivities at the Nome Recreation Center included the Most Inspirational Musher award, which was selected by the Iditarod Official Finishers Club (IOFC). Wade Marrs is IOFC president:

“The most inspirational musher this year, I think, was a pretty easy one to figure out. This guy has went through it all. He’s an amazing musher and an amazing man. This year, we had an awesome four-time champ in the middle of the pack, pushing everyone down the trail, teaching them secrets and stuff that he knows, and Lance Mackey’s ‘comeback kennel’ has come back.”

Marrs also won an award of his own, for having the fastest time from Safety to Nome, completing the stretch in two hours and 38 minutes. That award has gone repeatedly to Nic Petit, who was the fastest from Safety to Nome the past three years, but Petit scratched from this year’s race before reaching Koyuk.

Download a full list of special award winners from the 2019 Nome banquet.

Despite his 2019 scratch, Nicolas Petit received three awards at the Nome finishers’ banquet last night, a reflection of his first-position status for several days during the middle section of the race. Petit won the Alaska Air Transit Spirit of Alaska Award for being first to McGrath; the Lakefront Anchorage First Musher to the Yukon Award for being first to Anvik; and the Ryan Air Gold Coast Award for being first to Unalakleet. (See below for more details on the events that preceded Petit’s decision to scratch, as well as his immediate plans for the future.)

Three silver trophies sitting on a table
2nd-, 3rd-, and 4th-place trophies at the Iditarod Finishers’ Banquet in Nome on Sunday night, March 17, 2019. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

The Norton Sound coastal portion of the Iditarod features many Western Alaska communities, some of which are not official checkpoints. Aliy Zirkle said last night she received first class service when she chose to stop along the trail in Golovin, between the Elim and White Mountain checkpoints.

“I got the best Golovin drive through meal ever. [audience laughs] I’m standing there, and this fantastic woman walks up to me, and she says, ‘Do you like caribou stew? Would you like six homemade cookies? And I’ve got this cup of hot coffee. So could I just put it in your sled?”

Zirkle thanked Golovin and all of the residents in each community that make the Iditarod trail “endurable.”


And this year, one musher was able to give back to multiple communities along the trail. Blair Braverman a rookie who finished in 36th place, has generated a large following of fans on social media, who have taken on the moniker “Ugly Dogs.”

“I found out at one point on the trail, a teacher started hugging me, and I didn’t know why, and I found out that while I was out there, the Ugly Dogs had started in increments of eleven (which is my bib number) donating to projects for schools in villages along the trail, and it took off. Over the course of the race, as I was going from village to village, they donated $60,000 to the schools.”

Braverman described being hugged by teachers on the trail and hearing about how grateful they were for receiving this money as one of the most special experiences during her race.

As of early Monday afternoon, all mushers in the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race have arrived in Nome. Rookie musher Victoria Hardwick pulled under the Burled Arch on Front Street at 1:51pm with 9 dogs, finishing the 1,000-mile race in last place in 14 days, 22 hours, 51 minutes, and 49 seconds. With rookie Richie Beattie withdrawn and Cindy Gallea scratched, 39 mushers make up the final roster of finishers in Iditarod 2019.

Image at top: At Sunday night’s banquet, a standing ovation for Pete Kaiser, 2019 Iditarod champion. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM.

More Moments from the Nome Banquet (via Twitter)


Profile of dark-haired musher wearing grey parka and red vest
Nicolas Petit, shortly after arriving in Unalakleet. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media.

Petit Looks Back on His Decision to Scratch

In a post-race interview, Nicolas Petit told Iditarod Insider that his team will return to Unalakleet and continue mushing from there to White Mountain to enjoy the trail and show his dogs that it’s not a scary place. Even if there is not a formal race taking place after the Iditarod, Petit says his team will take their time completing that section of the trail.

According to Petit, during an interview with Iditarod Insider, his dogs did not want to run between Shaktoolik and Koyuk. Petit squashed the notion that his team got in a fight, but instead he described one dog “bullying” another dog on his team by pouncing on him, so Petit told him to knock it off.

After sorting things out and seeing a shelter cabin nearby, Petit tried to get his team running again, but to no avail. He says he switched out leaders by going through all of his dogs, but none of them were able to get the team moving forward again. As he put it, there was “nothing constructive from me going forward…”

When asked why he believed his team stopped running, Petit asserted his dogs were not tired and didn’t look it when passing through Shaktoolik. But instead, he described the trail from Shaktoolik to Koyuk as “worst run of their lives last year,” which was also tough on him. He was emotional as he continued to describe what he saw as his inability to keep his team on the right path last year when he got lost off the trail during a winter storm. Ultimately, he says he decided to call for help and end his race rather than put his team through that experience this year.

David Dodman also contributed to this story.

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