By Barbie Porter
Eddy Streeper was called to be an official announcer for the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship Sled Dog Races in Anchorage, Alaska.
Streeper is well known in the area for providing sled dog rides at his home along Shell Lake. He is also known by friends for having many colorful and entertaining stories. Perhaps that is why Janet Clark, a race marshal at the world championship, asked Streeper to co-emcee the famous race. The fact Streeper is an international sled dog racing champion who knows the intricacies of the sport, as well as many of the mushers, was likely another reason she thought of him.
Streeper raced against Clark years ago. When the two chatted on the phone she informed him the longtime “color commentator” of the race passed away. Streeper accepted to job and learned he will be on the radio, which will have a live feed on the internet.
“I won’t be the guys on the street with the loudspeaker,” Streeper said. “I will be talking with the other host providing stories and comments. The mushers also have headsets on during the race and listen for times we report as they go around the trail.”
The trail at the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship sled dog race was created the year after World War II ended. Popularity rose due to the dramatic finishes at the end of the three-day race. Streeper entered the big race for the first time back when he was 24 years old.
“I believe that was 1984 and I ended up in fourth place. The next year I won it. That was the 50th anniversary.”Eddy Streeper
The race left an impression for the sprint sled dog champion. He clearly recalled his disappointment in 1986 when the Fur Rendezvous was canceled due to no snow.
“In its 80 years the race has been canceled five, maybe six times,” he said, adding he looked forward to defending his title in 1986, but had to wait an extra year and his team didn’t disappoint. “My wife Amy also raced there once and got Rookie of the Year.”
Some may only think sled dog races happen with long distance competitions like the Iditarod. The near 1,000 mile race is stretched on a trail that may take 15 days to complete.
The concept of having a team of dogs pull a musher on a state-of-art sled is about the only similarity between the long distance and sprint divisions. Streeper, who became a feared name on the circuit during his racing career, explained the Fur Rendezvous is a three-day race, but there are no overnights spent in the Alaskan tundra.
“The teams run 26-miles, three days in a row,” Streeper said. “This is the open cross, so mushers can have as many dogs as they want to start. I expect teams to have 12-to-20 dogs on the first day.”
Streeper explained the mushers can pull a dog from the team on the second or third day. However, no dogs can be added to the team after they cross the start line.
“The trail is famous. It starts in the middle of Anchorage on Fourth Avenue amongst the skyscrapers. It is the same spot the Iditarod has its ceremonial start. Thousands are standing on the sides of the street and it might be 10-people deep lining the first mile of the race.”Eddy Streeper
The track loops back to Fourth Avenue for the finish line, providing a similar excitement for racers and spectators. There are also cameras along the trail.
“The great coverage on the trail is pretty unique,” he said. “We even had that back when I was racing. There used to be two choppers providing live coverage. They don’t have choppers up there now, though.”
The Fur Rendezvous has several other race events in addition to the open class event, which is expected to draw the premier sled dog teams.
“It is a 10-day celebration for the city,” Streeper said, adding the total prize purse is $60,000, which will be divided up by the 15 top teams. “I expect 20, maybe 25 teams. That is a pretty normal field for the big races.”
Streeper looks forward to getting back on the circuit, albeit as an announcer, and seeing old friends. He estimates he knows three-fourths of the racers competing in the open at the Fur Rendezvous. Having stories from yesteryear will likely add an element of fun to the radio coverage and perhaps create a few legends.
Streeper’s race coverage can be heard at www.ASDRA.org during the race on Feb. 25-27.
Race has rich history in sport
The Fur Rendezvous began in February 1935. The race became part of Fur Rondy in 1946, when Earl Norris organized a three musher race that stretched almost 18 miles. The race collected a lot of fan-fare, all but guaranteeing its return the following year.
The popularity of the race continued to grow and in a few decades it became a premier event in the sprint sled dog racing world.
George Attla won a record 10 titles spanning from 1956 to 1982. Streeper said his nephew, Buddy Streeper, will be going for his ninth win. He divulged the goal of his nephew is to hit 11 wins to break the record.
“It will be fun to see family members, too,” Streeper said. “I’ll tell ‘em all fast Eddy became fat Eddy and that is why I don’t race anymore.”
For many, the fun commentary that is simply part of Streeper’s personality will be reason enough to tune in.