Every year, about 3,000 people make the trip out to Big Lake to watch the start of the Iron Dog race.
This year, however, winter spectators won’t have to go as far as the Iron Dog added a ceremonial start for the 2015 race in Anchorage for the first time ever.
“It’s great because it’s the type of events a lot of Alaskans and a lot of Anchorageites don’t get to because it’s always happened out in the boonies,” said Chris Schutte, executive director for the Anchorage Downtown Partnership. “So to bring that cool event downtown is going to be awesome. I think everyone is looking forward to it.”
Monday, at the Hard Rock Café, Iron Dog staff unveiled plans for Anchorage. In addition to a ceremonial start, there will also be two freestyle shows, a kids’ race and a parade.
Hard Rock’s sales manager, Jamie Gates, says she thinks the race will bring in a revenue boost for the new business.
“I think that there’s going to be a lot of people coming into the Café for the first time,” said Gates. “They didn’t want to come during the busy tourist season. So I think this could be an opportunity for them to stop in since they’re going to be downtown for the event.”
While it might not come close to the 30,000 people Iditarod brings downtown every year, Iron Dog organizers still expect 5,000 to 10,000 spectators to attend. For many Alaskans, the Iron Dog, Iditarod and Fur Rendezvous events are a chance to show off their extravagant furs. The Alaska Fur Gallery says that’s why they hope to be busy during the Iron Dog festivities as well.
“If nothing else, it’s wonderful just to have the foot traffic downtown because, during the winter, it gets awfully quiet downtown,” said the shop’s office manager, Cathy Lancaster. “Having any kind of event that brings people to the downtown area is fantastic.”
The Iron Dog ceremonial start will take place Saturday, Feb. 21, on Fourth Avenue at noon. The Flying Iron freestyle events will be Friday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 21 at 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot at the corner of Third Avenue and E Street.