FAIRBANKS - Brian Houston was so excited to hear that the restart of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was taking place in Fairbanks that he wanted to volunteer for it.
He's one of many with that thought. Race officials have been getting 25 to 30 e-mails a day from prospective volunteers since the race route was changed Feb. 11.
"I think it's great because this is my first winter up here," said Houston, a sergeant first class at Fort Wainwright who spent the previous five years at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. "I'm hoping to get 15 people from my platoon involved because we're all new to the area."
The restart, scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, March 3, also is new to Fairbanks after being moved from Wasilla due to a lack of snow. The Iditarod's restart has been moved to Willow in past low-snow years, but never as far north as Fairbanks.
Deby Trosper, Iditarod restart coordinator, learned that while the location changed, there's been no change in the enthusiasm of people wanting to help.
"I'm getting e-mails like crazy," Trosper said from Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla. "We welcome anyone who'd like to help. I think it's an exciting event that everyone should experience at least once."
Past Iditarod restarts have attracted 150 to 200 volunteers, said Trosper, who herself has volunteered for 13 years for the 1,100-mile race to Nome.
Potential volunteers for the Fairbanks restart just can't walk up to the starting area on the Chena River, and say "Sign me up!" They first need to attend a volunteer organizational meeting on March 2.
Volunteer opportunities include musher runners, who direct mushers' vehicles to designated parking areas on the river, and security for the staging area, starting chute and crowd control. Volunteers are also needed as dog handlers.
Dog handlers with previous experience in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race are encouraged to apply, but Trosper asks that they provide proof of their participation in the Quest.