FAIRBANKS - After a push from the Alaska Legislature, the nation's largest propane company has dropped its opposition to sponsorship of Iditarod musher Ramy Brooks by a Fairbanks affiliate.
House Speaker Brian Porter, an Anchorage Republican, said he got the word in a letter from Paul Grady, senior vice president of operations for AmeriGas.
``We want you to know that we fully support our local service manager, Vic Hughes, and his decision to provide local AmeriGas support for Mr. Brooks and the Iditarod, and will continue to so in the future,'' Grady said in his March 24 letter.
The initial company directive, issued on the eve of this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, was the result of miscommunication, Grady wrote.
``We at the corporate offices were unaware of the local AmeriGas involvement in the race. For that reason only, we issued an inaccurate communication stating that AmeriGas was not supporting the Iditarod and Mr. Brooks.''
``They found out we can yell as loud as the animal rights folks,'' Porter said Wednesday. ``And we usually get the last word.''
The company severed ties to the Iditarod after an animal rights group flooded the corporation's national Web site with e-mails critical of the 1,100-mile mushing marathon from Anchorage to Nome.
``To have people who don't even know anything about it saying things about me - it's just wrong,'' Brooks said before the race. ``We live with these dogs, sometimes 14 to 16 hours a day. For someone to suggest we don't have their best interest in mind - it really bothers me.''
Brooks finished fourth in this year's Iditarod.
Hughes, of AmeriGas in Fairbanks, said he would rather quit than go along with the corporate directive to sever sponsorship ties with Brooks, who had won the Yukon Quest in 1999.
Hughes' sponsorship didn't involve any cash. He provided a handful of propane tanks and appliances sold at cost for use at the musher's cabin at Healy.
His refusal to ask Brooks to strip off the AmeriGas logos has repaid that small investment many times over.
``Oh man, I've had so many phone calls,'' Hughes told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ``Everybody supported me personally. We picked up several new customers.''
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