Takotna welcomes 2019 Iditarod mushers with fewer volunteers, but no less enthusiasm
Takotna is a popular destination for many Iditarod mushers to take their 24-hour rest along the trail. The small community is well known for it pies and Norwegian volunteers.
"The Norwegians started sending kids over from an adventure school [years ago]," Takotna checkpoint coordinator Nell Huffman said. "They would come to Takotna, visit, ski, climb mountains. They would help at a spirit camp and eventually the students from that started coming back [for the Iditarod]."
This year, those volunteers from overseas did not make the trip. The festival attitude they brought with them and the big Norway signs are also gone. However, the personality of the checkpoint, like the dog mushers themselves, continues to carry on.
"When the Norwegians came, we welcomed them into the community," Huffman said. "Now, you'll see a lot less people this year without them, but these [communtiy] kids were actually there. Everybody focused on the Norwegians, but these kids were all working."
Takotna School has 20 kids in grades preschool through 12th grade. Together, as they do every year, they made signs and posters to commemorate Iditarod and honor the mushers.
"The 10 students I have in pre-K through fourth grade made these beautiful signs," Takotna School principal and teacher Susan Smith said. "The other 10 students, the middle school and high school kids, made the big welcome to Takotna [sign]."
The welcome sign is 4 feet tall and 7.5 feet wide, featuring cut out pictures of all the competitors in the 2019 race. The younger students made five large posters for the five countries represented by mushers; huskies in the colors of each nation's flag.
"You'll notice every flag has blue, except for Canada, and every flag has red, except for Sweden," Smith said. "It's really cool we got to use red, white and blue for most of the flags."
The students also made paper dog houses for each musher, displayed around the five husky flags: green for veterans and yellow for rookies, red doors for women mushers and blue doors for the men, and a special orange strip across the top if they are a champion.
Joar Leifseth Ulsom's team was first into Takotna on Tuesday night and he chose to take his 24-hour rest there along with 16 other mushers. Ulsom left the checkpoint in third place Wednesday night at 7:58 p.m.
"We don't hear much once the mushers leave," Principal Smith said. "But every once in a while, we'll hear people talk of how much they liked it here."
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