Anchorage businesses feel bite of Iron Dog course change
Iron Dog snowmachine race organizers' decision not to hold a ceremonial start in Anchorage means some downtown businesses will strike out on the money it brings -- including one which struck coins for the event.
There's plenty to choose from at the Alaska Mint, including a chance to buy a piece of history. Several coins on sale this week mark the 35th anniversary of Iron Dog.
"We just got the design recently, struck the coin about a month ago," said store manger Ben Brown.
The mint has the coins, but won't have any spectators to sell them to. Iron Dog officials said economic hardships left them no choice in ending the ceremonial start which had been set for Feb. 17, a change announced Friday.
"I don't think it's a secret to any of us who live in Alaska: the economy is going through a tough time right now," said Jim Wilke, president of the Iron Dog's board of directors. "We all expect it to rebound and it will, but not quickly enough to allow us to make this expenditure."
The loss of the Iron Dog is especially painful in Anchorage, where just a handful of big events draw large crowds downtown. Business owners say Iron Dog, Fur Rondy and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race's ceremonial start help when the shopping season slows after the holidays.
"Most residents of Anchorage don't really come downtown," Brown said. "They don't frequently browse downtown, so, it's those big events that really get people up and out."
The Iron Dog's main route takes two-person snowmachine teams from Big Lake to Nome, then to Fairbanks -- a course of over 2,000 miles.
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