The Bethel community celebrated 40 years of Kuskokwim 300 mushing on Monday night. Race coordinators, mushers, and hundreds of the volunteers who make the race possible gathered in the Bethel Cultural Center for a night of feasting, speeches, and awards. After digging into a banquet of prime rib, cheesy potatoes, and lemon squares, the crowd settled in for the ceremony.
Overall, 65 mushers received a total of $250,000 in purse money. The majority of that went to local teams and helps keep mushing thriving along the Kuskokwim. The K300 awards the highest purses for short and mid-distance races in the state, and the second highest purse of any Alaska race next to the 1,000-mile Iditarod.
K300 winner Matthew Failor won $25,972. Bogus Creek 150 winner Jason Pavila of Kwethluk, who’s only 15 years old, took home $11,103. And Akiak Dash champion Terrell Andrews of Bethel received $5,550. The three winners also took home original art work from local Bethel artists as trophies.
There were more awards given out to K300 mushers:
Sixteenth-place K300 finisher Matt Scott of Bethel received the Spirit of the Kuskokwim Award for “exemplifying kindness, tenacity, strength, and flexibility along the trail.”
Eighth-place K300 finisher Wade Marrs of Willow won the Humanitarian Award for best dog care.
Second-place finisher and four-time K300 champion Pete Kaiser of Bethel won a string of awards: Best in the West for being the fastest Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta musher, the First to Aniak award, and the Fastest Time from Tuluksak to Bethel award.
A live auction raised money to help fatten future race purses. The highest bids went to dogs from two of Alaska’s fastest and most competitive kennels. A female dog from legendary musher Jeff King sold for $2,500. Harry Alexie bought the dog for his son, 15-year-old Raymond Alexie who placed fifth in this year's Akiak Dash. Fifth-place Bogus Creek 150 finisher Robert Larson of Napaskiak bought a Pete Kaiser puppy for $1,850.
Also at the ceremony, longtime K300 Race Marshal Nels Alexie announced that he would be stepping down. He encouraged young mushers to keep the great sport of sled dog racing alive.