AR-News: As Iditarod restart moves north, Wasilla mourns loss of revenue

Glickman37 at Glickman37 at
Tue Mar 2 09:16:32 EST 2004

Iditarod restart moves north
TOO WARM: Scant snow forces trail committee to change venue to Willow.

Anchorage Daily News
March 2, 2004
Sometimes it's impossible for Mother Nature to make everyone happy, 
especially mushers and spectators.

Just six days before the restart of the 32nd Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, 
the trail committee announced Monday it will move the venue from Wasilla to 
Willow due to scant snow.

"Unfortunately, trail conditions and a lack of snow make it impossible for 
the race to restart in Wasilla," said ITC President Rick Koch in a press 

After last year's warm winter moved the restart from the Wasilla to 
Fairbanks, Wasilla-area businesses will take another hit.

But Wasilla's loss doesn't necessarily mean business is Idita-dead.

Wasilla Chamber of Commerce President Paddy Coan is looking on the bright 
side. Because Willow is a 30-minute drive north of Wasilla on the Parks Highway, 
Coan expects business as usual. 

"Of course we are all very disappointed," Coan said. "But it's better than 
having the restart in Fairbanks. People still have to drive through our 
community to get there."

But Coan knows some Wasilla businesses and restaurants will suffer.

"If I were in charge, there would be plenty of snow here," Coan said, 

But, according to Koch, trail conditions are much better in Willow. 

"As a result, we are able to uphold our commitment to hold the safest race 
possible for the 87 mushers and 1,350 or so dogs involved," he said.

That is Willow musher DeeDee Jonrowe's main concern too. 

"Having the race committee getting dogs safely on the trail is much 
appreciated," said Jonrowe, who's competing in her 21st Iditarod after finishing 18th 
last year.

"I think it's great for myself and all of the racers to start in Willow, but 
I would truly love to give back to the city that gives back to us."

On the other hand, Jonrowe hates to think about the Willow parking cluster at 
10 a.m. Sunday, when the restart begins. 

"In order to stage 87 teams, mushers will have to get there extra early," she 
said. "Trucks will have to squeeze in because the space is not as big as the 
Sports Center in Wasilla."

Once mushers leave the Willow area, they will head south along the Susitna 
River. From then on the villages and checkpoints are mostly reachable by plane, 
snowmachine or dog sled.

"It's less people and the trails around here are nice," said Russ Bybee about 
starting in Willow. "Plus the mushers get off the road quicker."

Instead of starting the trek to Nome on Knik-Goose Bay Road, mushers avoid a 
spectator scene similar to the Fur Rendezvous World Championship Sprint Race.

Bybee, of Willow, will be competing in his second 1,100-mile race from 
Anchorage to Nome.

"Its a good deal for me," said Bybee, who lives just four miles out of town. 
"It'll be easier."

Daily News reporter Kevin Klott can be reached at kklott at 


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