Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Local Kotzebue John Baker Wins Iditarod

John Baker thanks the crowd for welcoming him home.
Kotzebue welcomed local John Baker after his victory at the Iditarod last week in Nome, Alaska. The local dog musher arrived Monday on Alaska Airlines flight 152. To his surprise, he was met at the terminal by many fans and well wishers. John had broken the race record set in 2002.

The hometown crowd lined Third Avenue from the airport to Kotzebue High School with signs and cheered our hero while John was escorted by fire trucks, an ambulance, along with other vehicles carrying local dignitaries. To his surprise the gym was full of spectators on one side by the time he arrived.

The crowd is entertained by the Northern Lights Dancers.
The community hosted quite a show for John. Words of praise were offered to this local bush pilot who grew up in Kotzebue by the Northwest Arctic Borough Mayor Siikuaraq Whiting, NANA Regional Corporation's president Marie Greene, and City of Kotzebue mayor Eugene Smith. The Northern Lights Dancers performed traditional Eskimo dances while members of the crowd joined in the fun. John gave out his autograph on slips of paper to the kids and thanked people for welcoming him home.

Signs on local businesses praising John's accomplishment can be seen around this village. Rothman's Store hung one near the entrance of their store.  Some wondered when the first place prize would be arriving: a work truck. Would it be transported from Nome by barge this spring or some other route? He also won $50,000.

Villagers enjoy the beautiful weather.

The excitement in the community lingers as spring conditions prevailed in this coastal village located above the Arctic Circle. The temperatures increased to 30 degrees today with an occasional snow shower. Residents are ready for the long winter to end as the hours of daylight continue to increase substantially each day. Time to put up the black out curtains or aluminum foil on the windows. It's time to be outdoors amid the melting snow. While we villagers play outdoors, local dog mushers like John Baker are preparing their teams for the next big race -- the Kobuk 440 which begins and ends in Kotzebue.

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