Arctic Circle Championship celebrates spring
John Goodwin remembers when the Arctic Circle Championship brought hordes of mushers and hundreds of dogs into Kotzebue.
"Teams from all over the region would come here and compete," he said. "This town would be just full of dogs."
That was in the '50s, he said, and the race has gone through its highs and lows since.
This year six mushers showed up on the Kotzebue sea ice to run the three-day sprint race, starting April 13, with the teams running a 17-mile loop each day to compete for top spot.
Greg Taylor of Fairbanks took first place this year.
Taylor, an experienced musher and past championship winner, took third in the Open North American Championship in March.
With sunny weather, crisp trails and a good crowd out to cheer, it was a good weekend for a race, said Goodwin, president of the Kotzebue Dog Mushing Association.
This race is just one of the springtime traditions that people of the region come together for, Goodwin said, welcoming spring as a community.
"We have a race like that every spring to celebrate the passing of the cold winter," he said.
The championship doesn't happen every year. In its more than a half century history there have been some years it doesn't run at all, and others, as in 2010, when it's cancelled due to poor weather and ice conditions.
This year was one of the good ones, Goodwin said, due partly to sponsorship from Shell Oil.
"We're really honored to have them sponsor us," he said.
"There are other mushers from different areas who normally come," Goodwin said. "But they have to fly in and when they do it costs them too much."
The cost of traveling to events around the state has kept the numbers low in a lot of races this year, not to mention the cost of keeping dogs year round, Goodwin said.
That being said, the ones who do show up to the starting line draw many fans, and bring people together to welcome that spring weather.
That celebration continued on to the awards banquet, held in conjunction with the Kobuk 440, on Monday evening following the races. Traditional dancers and youth singing groups came out to help celebrate the wrap up of the spring events.
Hannah Heimbuch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.