What a night! Congratulations to all the award winners and finishers in the 2016 Iditarod!
Once again the culinary team from the Lakeside Hotel in Anchorage put on a delicious and plentiful meal - their white and milk chocolate dipped strawberries are legendary.
At the start of the Award Ceremony, Race Judge Karen Ramstead, who was the judge in Nulato, asked Aliy and Jeff to the stage as the wonderful people of Nulato wanted to present beautiful pair of beaver mitts made by Cesa Sam of Huslia, and an apology. Aliy said there was absolutely no apology necessary - she has mushed those trails for over 20 years and will continue to do so.
I think Aliy was the only one in the room surprised when she was awarded the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for exemplary care of her dog team during the race. Aliy said that she couldn't have good dogs on this race unless she got the dogs from Allen (from the Quest) in great condition, so she shared the award with him. It was really so moving and thrilling to hear her name read out as the winner.
After the other special awards we got to hear from every finishing musher. That's my favourite part of the evening as we hear stories from the trail: of camaraderie and friendship, of competition and challenges. A number of mushers acknowledged Allen's sportsmanship firstly helping get their dogs teams across the open water then lending a sled to a Ed Steilstra who broke his in Unalakleet. Allen talked about Quito and how well she led the youngsters over the trail.
Aliy congratulated Dallas on his win, acknowledging that although he makes it look easy, she knows it is not and that she appreciates his work ethic, competitive spirit and how he strives to improve, even though he is the best. She joked how after the events on the river she decided to be "un-Aliy-like" and hide from people so tried to choose inaccessible camping spots - she really thought the camp on the pack ice would do it. She also thanked Karen Ramstead and Mark Nordman as well as all her family and friends.