A capacity crowd filled the Nome Convention Centre for the finishers' banquet and prize giving this evening. The meal put on by the Millennium Hotel was fantastic and the mood was fun; we were entertained by songs by the legendary Hobo Jim.
As each musher came up on stage we heard story after story of how they all helped each other out at various stages on the trail: helping fix broken sleds, untangling teams, patching up knees and ankles, travelling together in bad weather conditions and giving the occasional pep talk. Travis Beals told a story about how he was feeling a bit down in the dumps when Allen walked by and asked him what was wrong. Travis said he didn't think he could finish the race and apparently Allen told him to "put your big boy pants on and get zesty!" and that was his motto from then on. Travis thanked Allen - he finished the race with nine happy dogs.
Mike Williams Jnr won the Sportsmanship Award and I heard several mushers describe him as their guardian angel; at the right place at the right time and he was only too willing to help. Newton Marshall won the NAC Herbie Nayokpuk Award for his spirit and attitude during the Iditarod and Aaron Burmeister the most Exxon Mobil Mushers Choice award for most inspirational musher. All three of those awards are voted on my their fellow mushers.
The trail awards were "re-awarded" during the evening - Aliy received Bristol Bay Native Corporation First Fish Award as the first musher to Galena checkpoint and the Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award for the first musher to Unalakleet.
When Aliy was on stage to accept her 2nd place award she told the story of her run from White Mountain and how, when she got to Safety she was so worried about Jeff and his dog team. Right then the race became something else; it wasn't about racing the Iditarod any more and her "race" was over. She said "I have no regrets, it was a fantastic race and congratulations Dallas Seavey! She then got the 13 women who finished the race to stand up (as a response to a women in Unalakleet whose boyfriend thought women were sissies). She said to them "I don't feel like a sissy - do you?"
Congratulations to all the other award winners tonight. Particularly to the 2014 Iditarod Champion Dallas Seavey who received a standing ovation. Check out the Iditarod Facebook page for more details about the award winners this evening.
I have to say the best line of the night and the one that got the most laughs was from Mitch Seavey. He said that Aliy and Dallas are among the toughest mushers he had raced and his hat's off to them "but I'll never get used to losing to women and children".
I'll work on some video over the next couple of days but in the meantime here are a few pics.
Aliy's awards; Hobo Jim entertained us all
The trophy table