MEDIA REVIEW: ALL ALASKA SWEEPSTAKES, THE 2008 CENTENNIAL RACE

‘All Alaska Sweepstakes, The 2008 Centennial Race’by Mark and Helen Hegener, photography by Jan DeNapoliAvailable at: www.northernlightmedia.com“This book is dedicated to the hardworking volunteers who made the 2008 Centennial Running of the All Alaska Sweepstakes a reality. They were there when it counted for the mushers, for the dogs, for the fans, and for each other.”With that statement, Helen and Mark Hegener have produced a glorious remembrance of a very unique event. The 2008 All Alaska Sweepstakes celebrated the centennial running of a race touted as the granddaddy of all sled dog races. This book celebrates and honors all those who cared to be involved with the undertaking of such a race.The introduction,“A Front Row Seat to History,” which Helen wrote, explains how the media group we were both part of, was assembled. None of us could believe our good fortune in being asked to record this historic event.The book collects and recalls the major and some minor happenings of that insane week. Starting with a little history of the race, the Hegeners have provided insight and information every mushing fan should know. Studiously researched like a term paper, quotes abound concerning the beginnings of the race, the mushers, the dogs, the checkpoints and the Nome Kennel Club.“As I see it, such races will become a permanent thing in Nome. We all know what an important part dogs have contributed to the development of Alaska, how dependent we are up here on them for transportation. I propose that we establish a Kennel Club, the purpose of which will be to improve the strains of Alaskan dogs, and to better their conditions. The Annual All-Alaska Sweepstakes races…will serve to prove which dogs are the best…Albert Fink, Nome lawyer and first President of the Nome Kennel Club, established 1907 at the Board of Trade saloon, Nome, Alaska.”The Hegeners have done a lovely job of finding vintage photographs to accompany this part of the book. They also include quotes and comments from folks who were there in 2008, or wish they were there, which really helps bring the event to life and presents varying perspectives.The book quickly moves through the organizational process involved with making the Centennial run possible. An outstanding job is done of sorting through all the people and organizations involved with the 2008 race. The Hegeners make the reader wish they were part of it. You are there for the meetings, the election of the Queen, the musher draw, the start, finish, banquet and as much in between as the book could handle. My only complaints with this part of the book are the misspelling of the name of the 1983 Queen and that the musher draw did not include a quote from every musher. The ones provided are so much fun. “Cari Miller listed her home as Tripple Creek, Nome, and the mother of eight wrote under ‘list your racing experience’ : A person has to start somewhere. “ Priceless!Historians will note two other discrepancies in the book. A minor one concerning Joe May being the Yukon Quest race marshal in 2008. He was, but resigned before the race began. Doug Grillot took over for him. The second, more important in my mind, concerns the death of honorary musher, Peter McManus. He died in a plane crash after participating in the 1983 Sweepstakes.The real crown of this book belongs to Jan DeNapoli. Her outstanding still photography brings the whole event to life. Without her photos, this would be just another history book. I have the utmost respect for Jan’s abilities, which is why her photos are also seen in my movie, Running With Spirits. I don’t think anyone can discount her contributions to both projects.For the sled dog aficionado, I highly recommend this book. It is excellently organized, highly informative and provides a great bibliography for one to continue their own studies on the subject. I know I am pleased to have it in my library. •

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