Here’s what some of the Iditarod’s youngest fans love about the race

a photo of six children's faces
Top row, from left to right: Gus Ostrander, Emma Grenier and Mercedes Nester. Bottom row: Hannah Hiske, Emmett Bailey and Vanessa Young. (Ava White/ Alaska Public Media)

Iditarod fans took to the trails in Anchorage on Saturday for the race’s ceremonial start, and the crowd included a lot of children.

Some sipped hot chocolate. Some held out their hands for high-fives. And many of the race’s youngest fans had their eyes on one thing: collecting dog booties that mushers tossed as they raced by.


The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

A boy stands waiting for sled dogs.
Seven year-old Gus Ostrander says he’s warm sipping his hot chocolate. (Ava White/ Alaska Public Media)

Reporter Ava White: Hey buddy, what’s your name?

Gus Ostrander: Gus.

AW: Gus, how old are you?

GO: Seven.

AW: What are you drinking right now?

GO: A hot cocoa. 

AW: Are you excited for today?

GO: Yeah!

AW: Why?

GO: Because, it’s the Iditarod!

AW: Why do you like the Iditarod?

GO: Because they hand out dog booties. 

A young girl tries to high five mushers.
Emma Grenier stands along Cordova St. hoping to be high-fived by a musher. (Ava White/ Alaska Public Media)

AW: What’s your name?

Emma Grenier: Emma.

AW: How old are you, Emma?

EG: Four. 

AW: How are you feeling today, are you excited?

EG: Yeah.

AW: For what?

EG: The puppies. 

AW: Are you trying to high-five all the mushers?

EG: Yeah.

AW: Are you trying to catch some dog booties today if they throw some out?

EG: Yeah, we already got two!

AW: What colors were they?

EG: Black and red.

A girl smiles in the sun, waiting for mushers to begin.
Mercedes Nester is bundled in warm gear. She’s hoping to catch some dog booties. (Ava White/ Alaska Public Media)

Mercedes Nester: My name is Mercedes and I’m 10 years old. 

AW: How are you feeling today?

MN: Good.

AW: Do you have a favorite team?

MN: I don’t know any certain names, but I like the ones that go the fastest. I just think that’s really cool. 

AW: Are you going to catch some dog booties today when they throw them on the trail?

MN: Yeah. I played softball for about seven or eight years, so it might be easier for me to catch them. 

A girl in a pink hat
Hannah Hiske is eating popcorn she got from a “trailgate” party. (Ava White/ Alaska Public Media)

AW: What’s your name and how old are you?

HH: Hannah, I’m four. 

AW: What are you eating right now?

HH: Popcorn. 

AW: What’s your favorite part, do you like the dogs, the racers or how fast they go?

HH: The dogs. 

Three sisters smile in their warm winter gear.
Vanessa, Mariah, and Brianna are sisters. They’re hoping to watch the official start in Willow. (Ava White/ Alaska Public Media)

AW: What are your names?

Vanessa Young: Vanessa.

Mariah Young: Mariah.

Brianna Young: Briana.

AW: Do you guys have a favorite team?

MY: Number 23. I forgot his name, but he won last year.

AW: Ryan Redington? 

MY: Yeah!

AW: Have you guys seen the Iditarod before?

MY: Yeah, we watched last year. 

AW: Is there anything else you’re excited for today?

VY: Getting able to watch it with family and friends. 

A boy smiles in the sun.
Emmett is only three, but he says he want’s to be a musher when he grows up. (Ava White/ Alaska Public Media)

AW: Hi Emmett, my name is Ava. 

EB: There’s doggies coming from over there! 

AW: Oh look! Oh wait, those are just people. 

EB: Yeah, those are people. Not doggies.

AW: Yeah, those aren’t dogs. They’re coming though.

EB: Yeah, they’re coming. 

AW: Oh, look!

EB: Woo!

AW: Look at the dogs! All 12 of them!

EB: Woohoo!

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