Sign of economic struggle: Iron Dog ceremonial start cancelled

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It’s a sign of tough economic times in Alaska: The Iron Dog race has cancelled its ceremonial start on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage.

Jim Wilke, president of the board, said the race itself will go on, starting at Big Lake on Feb. 18, but tough economic times has caused the race to pull back on the pre-race festivities. The ceremonial start was added in 2015 under former executive director Kevin Kastner.

“The downtown start was a fantastic addition to our race, but it was simply too expensive and complex to continue. We look forward to another great race as we celebrate 35 successful years of Iron Dog,” Wilke said in a statement. “We are finalizing plans for all our related support events and will release an updated schedule very soon.”

The ceremonial start featured the “Flying Iron” freestyle show, vintage snow machines, activities for kids, and a chance for people to meet the racers.

The Iron Dog race crosses the state of Alaska each February as teams take snow machiens from Anchorat to Nome and on to Fairbanks, over 2,000 miles of remote and rugged terrain. It is billed as the world’s toughest snowmobile race. 29 teams are signed up for the 35th annual event.