Riverside bonfires part of Iditarod tradition in Skwentna
The trek to the next checkpoint is no doubt much quieter for Iditarod mushers than the party that awaited them in Skwentna late Sunday night.
Bonfires and live music along the Yentna River have become an Iditarod tradition-- breaking the silence and darkness of mushers' nearly 80 miles on the trail.
Steven Kershner, with the Skwentna Roadhouse, builds a fire next to the second official checkpoint each year out of driftwood and dead spruce from the area.
"Definitely a lot of people travel out from the valley and Anchorage just to come see it,” Kershner says.
The flames light the way up the Yentna River and into the second checkpoint.
"For the racers, it's about racing Alaska, but as far as a personal aspect, the camaraderie of getting together and 'bonfiring' on the river is my favorite part," said Jody Payton, one of the fire-goers.
The ritual was interrupted last year when the Iditarod trail committee moved the race restart to Fairbanks because of hazardous conditions.
Local businesses, like the Skwentna Roadhouse, felt the burn.
"It was a tough time last year because it didn't come through this checkpoint, so it changed routes, and it actually hurts a lot of businesses," Kershner explained.
But that didn’t put the party out for everyone.
"Last year, we still came out even though they didn’t race. And we did stuff anyway," said Iditarod fan David Miller.
While mushers may be low on sleep, fans in Skwentna hoped to spark some energy they teams could carry with them along the trail.
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