On Sunday 49 mushers and their dog packs started their long race to Nome, Alaska. The race started in Willow, 75 miles north of Anchorage. The race will cover 1000 miles of Alaskan land and take the participants approximately 9 days to complete.
The ceremony, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19, took place on Saturday. The mushers ambled through the city of Anchorage while fans waved and cheered along the streets. Unlike years in the past, fans were limited in their interactions with the mushers.
Proof of vaccination was required for every participant. The route that the mushers and their packs will take goes through many small native Alaskan villages. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 to these rural communities, participants will have checkpoints to isolate and rest in.
The defending champion Dallas Seavey is participating this year. He hopes to win for the 6th time and break the record for most Iditarod wins. The 2020 champion Thomas Waerner from Norway had to back out due to not being allowed to travel to Alaska.
PETA, a well-known animal rights group, has been protesting the race and succeeded in convincing large corporations to drop their sponsorships. The Lakefront Anchorage Hotel has acted as the Iditarod race headquarters for three decades and has announced this is their final year. The CEO of the race has said they have picked up six new sponsors this year.
Original reporting by US News.