Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Mushers, barking dogs and excited fans are converging on Alaska's largest city for the ceremonial start of the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The Saturday morning trek through downtown Anchorage gives fans a chance to mingle with mushers and their teams. The competitive portion of the race to Nome begins Sunday in the community of Willow.

This year's race comes amid a plethora of troubles for organizers, including a dog doping scandal, the loss of a major sponsor and increasing pressure from animal rights activists following the deaths of five dogs connected to last year's race.

Sixty-seven teams are signed up to vie for a total purse of $500,000. Organizers say the winner's share of the prize money will be determined later in the race.

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