February 2013 marked the second running of a sled dog race with special significance for Western Alaskans: the Paul Johnson Memorial Norton Sound 450. The NS450 honors the memory of Paul “Putty” Johnson, a dog musher and community leader from Unalakleet (YOU-nuh-luh-kleet), Alaska, a town well within KNOM’s listening range located on the coast of the eastern Norton Sound (it’s also the hometown of news director Laureli Kinneen).
Dog mushing is at the heart of the traditional culture of our region. It’s a common activity for many of our listeners and even a livelihood for some, and every winter, KNOM covers these sled dog races that so capture the imagination and affection of Alaskans.
This year’s NS450 was distinctively Alaskan in another way: it was adversely affected by severe weather. With brutal winds battering the race trail, officials decided to shorten the competition from a medium-distance 450 miles to a “sprint” of only 40 miles. It was but the latest example of the countless times weather shapes life – and changes plans – in our corner of the world. Thanks to you, we brought the latest race developments to our listeners.
(The photos above and at right are from the 2012 race, since the 2013 NS450, as described earlier, was re-routed at the last minute and did not finish in Nome. Top: an NS450 sled dog; right: Laureli interviews musher Pete Kaiser, who won both the full, 2012 race and this year’s abbreviated “sprint.”)