Crab feast fundraiser held for Yukon Quest

Posted: Monday, January 08, 2007

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks tradition to raise money for the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race is back.

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The Yukon Quest Crab Feed returned after a seven-year hiatus. It is one of several fundraisers for the 1,000-mile race, which this year will be run from Whitehorse to Fairbanks.

"I ate so much I'm going to have to hook up more dogs to my sled," said Two Rivers musher Bill Greenslade who attended the feast at the Carlson Center on Saturday.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the crab feed was the most popular of the events supporting and leading up to the race. The event came to a halt after the 1999 season due to skyrocketing crab prices and all the volunteer work needed to organize, cook, serve and clean up the thousands of pounds of crustaceans.

Julie Estey, who took over as executive director of the Yukon Quest International Fairbanks office in May 2005, said people kept reminding her about the event.

"Every person I meet, when they find out I'm the executive director, they say 'Oh, the Yukon Quest. I loved the crab feed,"' she said Saturday.

She said the high price of crab was something organizers figured they might be able work with if they increased ticket prices. But the real dilemma, she said, was that the event put a strain on Quest volunteers.

Estey said organizers realized they were asking volunteers to be a catering service. So instead, Estey worked with the Carlson Center to host and cater the event.

Estey said they even worked out a deal with a Sitka Dungeness crab supplier who agreed to buy back any portion of the 1 ton crab order that didn't get cooked.

Estey hopes to keep the crab feast going if there is enough interest in the future.

In the meantime, the prize money for this year's race has been increased by $75,000. This year's champion also will take home $40,000 compared to the $30,000 prize in place since 1994.

Three-time champion Hans Gatt is returning this year, going against two-time defending champion Lance Mackey, who recently moved to Fairbanks.

Mackey won his first Quest title in 2005, when Gatt wasn't running. Gatt came in second to Mackey last year.

"First, they say I won because Hans wasn't running, then it was because I was lucky," Mackey said. "So this year might prove something."

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