'The Happiness Was Thick.' Ron Kaiser Recounts His Son's Iditarod Victory

Mar 13, 2019

Dozens of fans from Bethel flocked to Nome to cheer on Pete Kaiser to his first Iditarod championship on March 13, 2019.
Credit Zachariah Hughes / APRN

Ron Kaiser, father of Iditarod champion Pete Kaiser, couldn't be more proud. He greeted his son as the Bethel musher pulled beneath Nome's burled arch at 3:39 a.m. Wednesday morning, winning the great 1,000-mile race. KYUK talked with the elder Kaiser Wednesday evening and learned that he hasn't slept since before his son arrived in Nome.

Ron Kaiser: I just have not been able to fall asleep. I guess I don’t want to close my eyes and have anything fade away.

KYUK: What is this like for you as a parent for Pete to win?

Kaiser: It’s just very, very gratifying, and pride and joy and love, and all those above. Just happy for him, all this work he put into this and really got this huge result. And a huge contingent of Bethel people were up here, maybe 70 or more people who we know from Bethel were here, and being from Western Alaska, bush Alaska, people feel akin to him. It was unbelievable.

KYUK: What was that like when he came across?

Kaiser: Mayhem; tons of people screaming and yelling. It was just awesome, and he made the rounds among the crowd, hugged a bunch of Bethel people. The happiness was thick.

KYUK: Do you remember what you said to him?

Kaiser: I don’t know that I said anything. We just had a big group hug, squeezed each other for moments, and then he was busy continuing the process of being checked in and declared the winner.

KYUK: I’ve gone around town today, talking with fans who were up late cheering him on, and everyone is saying that we’re so proud because he’s such a good person and because he’s representing this area. It seems like people have a lot of pride and that they are all owning this with him. Are you sensing that?

Kaiser: I agree that that is how people are feeling, and he feels really good about representing our region and people. Everybody, Native, non-Native, rural. All the help and support he gets makes him want to do well for them and for himself, of course; for everyone.

KYUK: You’ve been the one taking care of Pete’s dogs as the vet checks have been happening. How do the dogs look after that 1,000-mile race?

Kaiser: Well, they came in. They were frisky, and they were hungry, and they were eating all their food. After something like this, there can be some aches and pains and stuff, but there’s not much of that going on. They look great.

KYUK: What did Pete do after he answered all the questions from all the reporters?

Kaiser: I guess that went on for a while. I missed the part after they left the chute. They went to the headquarters and had a go-around with the press, and then he just said, ‘I’m going to go take a shower, get a bite to eat, and go to bed.’

KYUK: And when do you expect to get some sleep?

Kaiser: We’ve had a living room full of people here, so it’s not exactly that quiet, but I’m getting my second wind here. Richie Diehl is coming in here tonight, probably around 2 a.m. like Pete. So we will be up very late cheering Richie on, and Jessica Klejka will be coming in at some point. So more to come.

KYUK: Ron, thank you for taking the time. We are so proud of Pete.

Kaiser: Thank you.