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We are delighted to be combining this year’s Mushing History Conference with the Willow Dog Mushers Association’s K9 Athletes Symposium in Willow, Alaska. For your information here is a preliminary breakdown of the weekend schedule (subject to change) and ticket prices are below:

Click here for registration form
and complete information!

WDMA K9 Athletes Symposium
Saturday, September 25, 2010

ALL DAY – Gear Swap

Bring your unwanted dog gear and other miscellaneous items to sale, but please NO live animals for sale or trade. Bring photos and pedigrees instead. Gear Swap will take place in parking lot near Old Community Center next to the Willow Community Center starting at 10 am until whenever.

ALL DAY – Mushing History Museum

Sleds, gear, photos, posters, books and more – and lots of mushers talking about the colorful and important history of mushing, located in the Old Community Center log cabin next to the Willow Community Center starting at 10 am until everyone gets tired of talking about mushing! Special Presentation by Thomas Swan on “Dog Mushing in the Historical Northwestern Fur Trade.” Time TBA.

ALL DAY – Vendor Fair

Come and check out a variety of vendors. The vendor fair is open to the public free of charge from 10 am until 1 pm.

10:00 am – 12:15 pm – Hands-On Seminars

Hands-On Seminars will run TWICE for one hour so that you can take part in at least two different seminars. You can learn more about: How to Use a GPS – Vic Stanculescu, No Snow? No Problem! “Dirt Dogs”Alaska Skijor Club, Nose Work Demo / Weight Pull – Claudia Sihler / Judy Carrick, Canine Massage & Acupressure – Susan Whiton, Extreme Weather Outdoor Survival – Kent Kantowski, John Wilber and Debbie Moderow and Trap Release – Dave Korpi. These events will take place in different areas at the Willow Community Center.

• 1:00 pm- 2:00 pm –
Official Start of Sled-Dog Mini Symposium & Mushing History Conference

Keynote Speaker, Mary Shields

• 2:30 pm – 3:15 pm –

Program #1: Tips & Hints for Stretching Your Kennel Dollar
Greg Sellentin, Gayle Wood, Perry Solomonson, Erin McLarnon

Program #2: Police K9 Unit Demo

• 3:30 pm – 4:15 pm –

Program #1: Mental Toughness – The Human / Canine Connection with Jim Lanier, Claudia Sihler, Ellen Halvorson

Program #2: Frisbee Dogs

• 4:30 pm – 5:15 pm –

Program #1: Developing Leaders – with
Ed Wood, Greg Sellentin, Roxy Wright, others TBA

Program #2: Gun Dog / Retriever Demo – Baron Rae of Wetland Retrievers

• 5:30 pm – 6:15 pm –

Program: Pioneering Women Mushers & Their K9 Athletes:
Mary Shields, Roxy Wright, Rose Albert, Sue Firmin, others

• 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm – (separate ticket required)

Fundraising Dinner / Silent Auction / Film: Mary Shields, “Season of the Sleddog,” in the Willow Community Center

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mushing History Conference

Sunday, September 26, 2010

ALL DAY – Gear Swap

Bring your unwanted dog gear and other miscellaneous items to sale, but please NO live animals for sale or trade. Bring photos and pedigrees instead. Gear Swap will take place in the parking lot near Old Community Center next to WCC starting at 10 am.

ALL DAY – Vendor Fair

Come and check out a variety of vendors.

ALL DAY – Mushing History Museum

Sleds, gear, photos, posters, books and more – and lots of mushers talking about the colorful and important history of mushing, relocated from Saturday to the new Willow Community Center, starting at 10 am.

ALL DAY – Mushing History Conference Schedule:

9:30 – 10:00 – Doors open, set-up displays, book tables, etc.
10:00 to 10:25 – Welcome, introductions, opening comments, etc.
10:30 to 11:25 – Dog Mushing in the Northwestern Fur Trade – Thomas Swan
11:30 to 12:25 – Mushing the Mail on the Iditarod Trail – Linda Chamberlain
12:30 to 1:25 – Lunch, viewing displays, visiting
1:30 to 2:25 – Women Mushers Panel – Roxy Wright, Rose Albert, Dee Dee Jonrowe, Sue Firmin, Kari Skogen
2:30 to 3:25 – Denali Park Kennels – Jennifer Raffaeli
3:30 to 3:45 – Break for 15 minutes
4:00 to 4:55 – Serum Run History – Erin McLarnon
5:00 to 5:55 – Iditarod Stories – Rod Perry
6:00 to 6:55 – Iditarod Trail History – Chas St. George
7:00 – Closing, breakdown, clean-up, visiting, etc.

Advance Registration (Saves you money! Respond before Sept. 10)

1 Day Pass: WDMA members: $20.00 (Juniors/under 18: $5.00)
non-members: $35.00 (Juniors/under 18: $5.00)

2 Day Pass: WDMA members: $30.00 (Juniors/under 18: $5.00)
non-members: $50.00 (Juniors/under 18: $5.00)

Fundraising Dinner/Movie/Silent Auction Saturday Nite $10.00
(not included with either 1 day or 2 day passes)

Click here for registration form
and complete information!

The 2010 Mushing History Conference, presented by Northern Light Media, will be held in Willow, Alaska, on September 25 and 26, in conjunction with the Willow Dog Mushers Association’s third annual Canine Athletes Symposium. The location is the beautiful lakeside Willow Community Center, in the heart of downtown Willow, Alaska.

Award-winning Talkeetna artist David Totten contributed artwork for a limited edition poster, which will be available for purchase.

David Totten

Totten, who has designed the official poster for multiple years of the Yukon Quest, and designed the poster for the 2010 Jr. Iditarod, has often used his own team of sled dogs as models for his artwork.

Mary Shields

The WDMA Symposium will hold center stage in the Willow Community Center on Saturday, September 25, with keynote speaker Mary Shields, the first woman to run and finish the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1974. Opening her kennel near Fairbanks to visitors, Mary has been sharing her 41 years of adventures in mushing, and her love of living in Alaska with her family of sled dogs, since 1984.

Complementing Ms. Shields’ address will be a panel of veteran women mushers, and attendees will also experience a wealth of canine athlete related activities, including hands-on seminars, workshops, demonstrations and more. There will also be a new and used gear swap, a vendor fair, and a fundraising dinner with a silent auction and a showing of Mary Shield’s PBS documentary, Season of the Sled Dog.

The 2010 Mushing History Conference is sponsoring a display of historical mushing items such as freighting sleds, antique harnesses, gear, posters, photos, books and more, and there will be a comfortable place for ongoing informal discussions about the history of sled dog travel in the north. On Sunday, September 26 the Mushing History Conference gets underway in earnest, with a program which includes The All Alaska Sweepstakes, the Serum Run, Dog Mushing in the Northwestern Fur Trade, Iditarod Mail Carriers, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the history of women in racing, and more.

• For information about the 2010 Willow Dog Mushers Association Canine Athletes Symposium and Mushing History Conference contact the Willow Dog Mushers Association, P.O. Box 858, Willow, Alaska 99688; 907-495-0671; http://www.willowdogmushers.com

• For information specifically about the 2010 Mushing History Conference, contact Northern Light Media, P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645; 907-354-3510; https://mushinghistory.wordpress.com

The 2010 Mushing History Conference will be held in Willow, Alaska, on September 25 and 26, in conjunction with the 2010 Willow Dog Mushers Association’s Third Annual Symposium. A tentative schedule has been developed for this year’s conference:

Mary Shields

On Saturday, September 25 the 2010 Willow Dog Mushers Association’s Symposium will hold center stage in the Willow Community Center, and a wealth of canine athlete related programs are being planned. The Keynote Speaker will be Mary Shields, the first woman to run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1974, and a panel of some of the first women to run the Iditarod will discuss various aspects of women and mushing. Also included will be a Gear Swap/Vendor Fair, Hands-On Seminars, multiple workshops and a Symposium/Fundraising Dinner with a Silent Auction and a showing of Mary Shield’s PBS video, Season of the Sled Dog.

From noon to 5:00 on Saturday the Old Log Cabin Community Center will be transformed into a mushing history museum, and a continuous informal conversation about the history of mushing will take place throughout the day. Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion as we explore the items on display, and share mushing experiences and adventures, tales of the trail, and more.

On Sunday the 2010 Mushing History Conference will get underway in earnest, with a full program focusing on the history of sled dogs and mushing:

10:30 to 10:45 – Welcome, opening introductions
10:45 to 11:30 – First presentation
11:30 to 12:15 – Second presentation
12:15 to 1:00 – Lunch and visiting
1:00 to 1:45 – Third presentation
1:45 to 2:30 – Fourth presentation
2:00 to 2:45 – Fifth presentation
2:45 to 3:00 – Break for 15 minutes
3:00 to 3:45 – Sixth presentation
3:45 to 4:30 – Seventh presentation
4:30 to 5:30 – Women Mushers Panel
5:30 to 6:00 – Closing

The presentations for this year already include the All Alaska Sweepstakes, the Serum Run, Dog Mushing in the Northwestern Fur Trade, Iditarod Mail Carriers, and the history of women in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, with more still under discussion.

Artist David Totten

We are excited to have Talkeetna artist David Totten designing a poster for this year’s combined event with the Willow Dog Mushers Association’s Symposium. David, who often used his own recreational team of sled dogs as models for his well-known “sled dog art,” has been awarded numerous placements in the prestigious “Art Show at the Dog Show” competitions, and in 1995, 1997 and 1999 was selected to paint the official prints of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Information updates about the 2010 Mushing History Conference will be shared via this website and the Mushing History Discussion Group, and at the Mushing History Facebook page.

Conference Director:
Helen Hegener
• Mail: P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645
• Phone: 907-354-3510
• Email: helen@northernlightmedia.com
Northern Light Media

Indian dog sled near Fort Clark. Watercolor by Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied, 1833

The 2010 Mushing History Conference will be held in Willow, Alaska, on September 25 and 26, in conjunction with the 2010 Willow Dog Mushers Association’s Third Annual Symposium. The WDMA Symposium will include a broad range of canine athlete-related programs, and the Symposium’s Keynote Speaker will be Mary Shields, the first woman to run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in 1974.

The 2010 Mushing History Conference is still in the early planning stages, but the first Mushing History Conference, held in November, 2009, in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska, brought together many veteran mushers and a broad assortment of authors, historians, researchers, storytellers, writers and photographers for a wonder-filled weekend of exploring the colorful history of man’s travel via dogteam. Presentations traced the evolution of man’s relationship with working sled dogs, including trapline use of sled dogs in the North American fur trade, historic and present-day sled dog races, delivering the U.S. mail by dogteam, sled dog use in polar expeditions, the Centennial of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Joe Redington’s work with dogteams for the U.S. Army, the evolution of sled dog nutrition and diets, the Iditarod Trail Committee’s historic documentary about the race, and much, much more.

The friendly, happy group which closed the 2009 Mushing History Conference, photo by June Price

The speakers and presenters at the first conference included Jane Haigh, Kenai, Alaska, author of Gold Rush Dogs, and Assistant Professor of History, Kenai Peninsula College; Joe Redington, Jr., Manley, Alaska, champion musher and son of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race founder; Jeff Dinsdale, Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada, a historian and researcher who’s been working with sled dogs for almost 40 years; Kevin Keeler, Anchorage, Alaska, Iditarod National Historic Trail Administrator; Dr. Linda Chamberlain, Homer, Alaska, scientist, author, professor, historian and dog musher; Rod Perry, Chugiak, Alaska, author and veteran of the first Iditarod in 1973; Chas St. George, Wasilla, Alaska, Public Relations Manager for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race; Carol Beck, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, musher, co-chair of the 2008 Arctic Winter Games Dog Sledding Committee; and Tim White, Grand Marais, Minnesota, inventor of the Quick Change Runner (QCR) System, winner of multiple championship sled dog races, and a Mush with PRIDE Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Historic photographs, books, maps, pamphlets, posters, slide shows, mushing films, videos, short subjects, documentaries and more were also presented.

Information updates about the 2010 Mushing History Conference will be shared via this website and the Mushing History Discussion Group, and at the Mushing History Facebook page.

Conference Director:
Helen Hegener
• Mail: P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645
• Phone: 907-354-3510
• Email: helen@northernlightmedia.com
Northern Light Media

This post is the fifth and last in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference, which took place Nov 6-8 in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska.

Jane Haigh

Jane Haigh with an autographed copy of Esther Birdsall Darling's classic, 'Baldy of Nome' Photo by June Price

Jane Haigh, an Assistant Professor of History at Kenai Peninsula College and an accomplished Alaskan author and historian, has written or co-written a number of books of popular Alaskan history, including Gold Rush Dogs, Children of the Gold Rush, Gold Rush Women, King Con: The Story of Soapy Smith, and The Search for Fannie Quigley: A Wilderness Life in the Shadow of Mount McKinley. In 2008 Jane was honored by the Alaska Historical Society with their annual “Historian of the Year” recognition.

For the 2009 Mushing History Conference Jane gave a presentation on Nome pioneer and Alaskan author Esther Birdsall Darling, the woman who was part owner of Scotty Allan’s kennel, and who helped to found the Nome Kennel Club. Esther Birdsall Darling was responsible for publicizing the All Alaska Sweepstakes races and writing the race programs, including the booklet and postcards titled The Great Dog Races of Nome Held under the Auspices of the Nome Kennel Club, Nome, Alaska: Official Souvenir History, printed in Nome, Alaska by the Nome Kennel Club, 1916.

Esther Birdsall Darling was the author of several books on Nome and the All Alaska Sweepstakes races, including the classic best-selling children’s book, Baldy of Nome, detailing the exploits of Scotty Allan’s famous leader. First published in 1913, the book was kept in print by popular demand through the next four decades, and Baldy’s descendants, including Boris and Navarre, were featured in additional books by Esther Birdsall Darling.

Jane Haigh’s slideshow and discussion of the famous Nome author and pioneer brought a wonderful Alaskan personality to light for the conference attendees.

Chas St. George

Chas St. George, Director of Public Relations, Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, photo by June Price

Chas St. George, Director of Public Relations for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, brought a film preview from the newest Iditarod video project, Purely Alaskan, the first in a series of videos highlighting the almost forty years of Iditarod race history. The 90-minute documentary, now available from the Iditarod website, tells the story of the race through archived photos and interviews with more than fifty people, including past champions and other mushers, race veterinarians, Iditarod Air Force pilots, volunteers and others.

Chas St. George had brought more than just the film clip; he also brought along a piece of mushing history in the form of a handwritten letter on the first Iditarod Trail Race stationery from Joe Redington, Sr. to Howard Farley of Nome, dated December, 1972, saying in part, “I thought you might be interested in this race. I need some help on that end…”

Dec. 1972 letter from Joe Redington, Sr. to Howard Farley in Nome. Photo by June Price.

In an article about the conference for Mushing magazine, Alaskan author June Price quoted St. George:

“‘Joe Redington Sr. put it on the line,’ he said. ‘He put his mortgage on the line. Journalists were following him around calling him a Don Quixote,’ he added, but Redington never wavered. ‘It wasn’t about who won,’ said St. George, ‘but about the journey,’ a sentiment shared by everyone there.

“Redington’s dreams were a huge part of the presentation made by Chas St. George, too. As a set of photos from the Iditarod’s past cycled before our eyes in an endless loop, St. George and others in the audience shared their appreciation of Redington Sr.’s ability to pull others into his dreams. Redington appreciated the history of mushing and lived the lifestyle, yet celebrated its adventure, too. Those gathered for the conference weren’t about just sharing ol’ stories about mushing; they were sharing it in a manner that put it in the words of those who’d lived the journey. St. George acknowledged this, so to speak, noting that the Iditarod’s effort to capture its own history isn’t about us telling the story ourselves, but an attempt to tell it through the words of those who’ve experienced this race.'”

More photos of the 2009 Mushing History Conference can be found at June Price’s weblog, Backstage Iditarod.

This post is the fourth in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference, which took place Nov 6-8 in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska.

Joe Redington, Jr.

Joe Redington Jr. and Mushing magazine publisher Greg Sellentin, photo by June Price

Joe Redington, Jr. was raised on the Iditarod Trail and learned to mush dogs from his father, Joe Redington, Sr., who’s also known as the Father of the Iditarod. Joe is a former World Champion sled dog racer, and he and his wife Pam make their home in Manley Hot Springs, 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. Their Iditarod Kennels offers a tour of their kennel, sharing their knowledge about dogs, equipment, sleds and strateg, and they’ll describe their subsistence lifestyle of fishing, gardening, hunting and mushing for their visitors.

For the Mushing History Conference Joe brought an amazing slideshow and a video of his family’s colorful history in Alaska. On Saturday, at the UAA in Anchorage, he shared the slideshow and explained the photos of his dad’s early days in Alaska, his fish camps and boats, dogteams and airplanes, the Redington boys growing up in Knik and at Flathorn Lake, both on the Iditarod Trail; Joe Sr. working for the Army salvaging wrecked airplanes, and summiting Denali with champion musher Susan Butcher and the reknowned mountaineer Ray Genet; and Joe Jr. winning the 1966 World Championship Sled Dog Race at the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous. After the slideshow Joe answered questions and an interesting discussion ranging over many different topics ensued.

Joe Redington Sr., Father of the Iditarod

For Sunday’s presentation at the Grand View Inn in Wasilla Joe had brought a video he’s put together which combined many of the same slides with some additional images, but the narrator was his father, Joe Sr.! It was fascinating for those who were able to attend both the slideshow and the video showing, to hear father and son each talking about the family photos, commenting on things which happened over the years, ways of doing things, making observations and sharing laughs with the viewers. The stirring tribute to Joe’s father, “Redington’s Run,” by Alaska’s State Balladeer, Hobo Jim, ended the video. It was a delightful presentation, and certainly a highlight of the conference.

Jeffrey Dinsdale

In the early sixties Walt Disney Studios made a feature length film titled Nikki, Wild dog of the North, about a half-husky, half-wolf separated from its owner during the gold rush in Canada’s Yukon Territory. What many people don’t know is that Joe Redington Sr. bred the dog who played in the title role, and the story behind that dog, and all the dogs used in the film, and how they ended up in the kennels of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and what happened after that, is a fascinating tale!

Jeffrey Dinsdale, right, talking with conference organizer Tim White, left

Jeffrey Dinsdale has been involved in breeding and working with sled dogs for almost 40 years, as he and his family have lived in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Northern British Columbia. Throughout this time Jeff has maintained a keen interest in sled dog history; he was involved in the organization of the first Carcross, Yukon to Atlin, British Columbia Mail Run in 1975, and since 1992 he has been involved with the organization of the Gold Rush Trail Dog Sled Mail Run from Quesnel B.C. to Barkerville and Wells B.C. In the 1970’s and 80’s Jeff worked with the Canadian Kennel Club and the Eskimo Dog Research Foundation during a period when attempts were being made to ensure that these dogs, which are indigenous to the Canadian Arctic, would continue to thrive, and Jeff has published many articles in various sled dog-related publications.

Jeffrey’s interesting, engaging, and often humorous story of the Disney Dogs and the RCMP is available on his blog, titled simply Mushing Past. A very brief excerpt:

Nikki was bred by Joe and Vi Redington of Knik Alaska.(3). He was originally named Polar and was born February 4, 1958. At six months of age he was sold to Bill Bacon. His sire was Tok, a Malamute show dog and a fair working animal. His dam was Chena, also a Malamute, of Earl and Natalie Norris stock.(4). Nikki (Polar) had no Siberian Husky blood in him. The Redingtons later sold six other dogs to Bacon, three males and three females. Three were Chena’s pups, but three were sired by Tok of a ½ Siberian Husky ½ Eskimo Dog named Belle. Belle’s sire was from Greenland and was brought to Alaska by the U.S. Air Force 10th Rescue Unit of Elmendorf Air Force Base. In all it should be noted that over 200 different sled dogs were used in the movie “Nikki –Wild Dog of the North”, which was released in 1961 (5).

Jeffrey’s excellent article is well-referenced, and additional information is documented. As an example, here are the notes for the paragraph above:

(3) This is the same Joe Redington who went on to become the Father of the Iditarod.. There is a very interesting account of Bacon’s dealings for Polar in the book Father of the Iditarod, the Joe Redington Story, by Lew Freedman, Epicenter Press, Box 82368, Kenmore, WA, 98028, U.S.A. Go to page 71 for the story of Polar.

(4) The Norrises are well known for their Anadyr Siberian Huskies. It is perhaps not as well known that throughout most of the existence of their famous “Alaskan of Anadyr” kennels, Natalie Norris has also maintained a small breeding program of purebred Alaskan Malemutes. At one stage, Natalie also bred purebred Eskimo Dogs with breeding stock from both Greenland and Igloolik in the Canadian Arctic

(5) Have any readers ever seen this movie? Any comments would be appreciated, please reply using the contact email address on this site.

A long and colorful history of the RCMP in northwestern Canada is part of Jeffrey’s post, as is a detailed accounting of what happened to the Disney dogs.

Still to come are the presentations by author Jane Haigh, and Chas St. George of the Iditarod Trail Committee, and contributions sent for presentation by Thomas ‘Swanny’ Swan and Alan Stewart.