Preparation for the K300 Sled Dog Race is in full swing although it doesn’t officially start until Jan. 18. Currently, 28 teams are signed up to compete, the largest field in about 15 years. Five of them are local, from the Bethel region, but most will be coming from all over Alaska, even from Norway and Russia. A larger field means more logistics and planning for race organizers.
Race Manager, Zach Fansler, said, “this is a situation where it’s not so much a problem but it’s just something that we just have to handle. And we’re excited about that because it does give us the largest field that we’ve had in a long time and a very strong field at that.”
The field includes 6 of last year’s Iditarod top 10 and a slew of other big names: Lance Mackey, Jeff King, the Busers, Paul Gebhardt, and others.
The K300 race relies on a few hundred volunteers every year and taking care of a larger field means more of them are needed.
“We guarantee when a musher comes to town that we’re going to pick you up at the airport,” Fansler said. “We’re going to find you a place to stay, we’re going to get your team to the starting line, we’re going to get your team back from the finishing line, and then we are going to get you back to the airport to leave, so that means we need that many more trucks, that many more places to stay.”
The race has always drawn big Iditarod names in its 32-year history. Jeff King has won the race the most, taking 1st place eight times. And each of those times, he took home $20,000 of what used to be a $100,000 purse. But this year, the purse has gone up to $110,000, with first place winning $22,000.
Fansler says the larger purse has probably contributed to the draw this year. But he says another draw is that the race is well organized and known for its challenging coastal conditions.
“I think there’s a lot that can be said about winning the K300,” Fansler said. “This is a highly prestigious race, a race that a musher wants to say they’ve accomplished.”
With just over a week to go, the K300 is asking anyone who can volunteer to please contact them. That includes helping with the races as well as other activities like a basketball tournament or musher’s banquet or housing mushers. Fansler says whether you like the indoors or the outdoors, whether you have just a few hours to spare or the whole weekend, there is something for everyone.
“So, if you’re an indoor person we need a lot of help, right now we have a basketball tournament coming up all week long, we need help there. And that’s working the door, working the books, running the score boards, selling concessions. Those are all situations that we would like to have volunteers for,” said Fansler. “We need a lot of other help with housing, that’s our big push right now is housing and trucking. So we need people that will say, ‘hey, I can drive a truck around’ and help transport, and maybe they’re driving their truck around. Or we need people who say ‘Hey, I’m out of town but I do have a truck that you can use for transportation or I am available this time to help out with housing’ or something like that. Another one we really focus on is the banquet. The banquet is always a major undertaking and this year it will be even larger because we have more mushers, more volunteers, and more, more, more. And for that, we’re always looking for people to cook lasagna, or you can help us preparing, we need to prepare salad, we need help to put out food during the banquet and things like that.”
Fansler says the best way to sign up to volunteer, is to go to their website K300.org and click on the yellow volunteer link on the homepage.
If you do volunteer to house a musher, the city has donated an extra water and sewer delivery per house.
The K300 sister races will also be happening next week: the Bogus Creek 150 and the 65-mile Akiak Dash.