by K.J. Lincoln
The Kuskokwim 300 Race Committee hosted the 39th annual Mushers Banquet and Awards Ceremony on January 22nd, 2018, the Monday after the big race weekend.
The awards ceremony took place right after the banquet which was catered by local Bethel chef extraordinaire Tiffany Tony. There was crockpot roast beef, tangy oriental salad, loaded green salad, hot smashed potatoes, rolls, punch, and drenched cakes for dessert.
The awards for the Bogus Creek 150 were given first starting with Red Lantern award recipient Carl Ekamrak of Akiachak. Each musher said a few words of thanks to their sponsors as they accepted their prizes.
A few of the mushers were rookies – Tory Fitzpatrick, John Simon – the youngest participant at age 15, Joe Demantle III, Nick Ayapan, and Rookie of the Year Robert Larson of Napaskiak who ran a team from the Jackie Larson family kennel.
“I’ve always wanted to run this race,” said Larson from the podium. “I hope to be back in the future.”
After the Bogus awards there was a live auction for donated items including a couple of round trip tickets on Alaska Airlines, a sled dog ride with Bethel musher and American Ninja Warrior Nate DeHaan, and entry fee into the Kobuk 440 sled dog race.
Race Committee members took a few moments to thank their sponsors, the finish/start line crew, the Army National Guard, the airlines for shipping straw and supplies, trackers, board members, checkpoint checkers and cooks, the veterinarian team, and the hardworking “rock star” volunteers, as described by Race Manager Madeleine Reichard.
Race Marshall Nels Alexie also said his thank yous and told stories about past races and mushers.
The K300 awards went to 12 teams. The race pays for 25 places so the rest of the prizes went right back to the mushers who finished.
Winning the red lantern award was Isaac Underwood of Aniak. He won the largest monetary award given to the last finishing musher in history, said race managers. His time was 63 hrs. 4 mins.
The Humanitarian Award went to Matt Failor of Willow, Alaska which included two round trip tickets on Alaska Airlines. Failor placed 5th overall. Failor thanked his sponsors and host family.
“They made me feel like I won the race,” he said. “This is a world class event. Bethel has something to be proud of.”
Nine time champion of the K300 Jeff King took 3rd place honors.
“I suspect that I have another one (K300) in me,” he said while accepting his award. “But I’ll check next year.”
Coming in second was Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway and Willow, Alaska. His time was 40:21:41.
Best in the West winner and four-time consecutive champion Pete Kaiser of Bethel graciously accepted his awards, thanking his sponsors and family, and congratulating Bogus Creek 150 winner Maurice Andrews.
The awards ceremony concluded with closing of the silent auction.