There’s a go to person in every organization. For Jr. Iditarod it’s Barb Redington. In recognition of her service, the Jr. Iditarod Board of Directors has named Barb as the 2019 Honorary Musher. Barb will receive Bib #1, signed by the Jr. Iditarod mushers, to wear at the start of the 2019 race.
Jr. Iditarod mushers took to the trail for the first time in 1978. Mushers ran in two divisions – the Junior Division and the Senior Division. Barbara (Ryan), who had moved to Knik from Unalakleet, participated in the Junior Division. Out of eleven mushers she finished in 11th place and received the Red Lantern Award for perseverance. With her experience as a participant in the Jr. Iditarod, she continues to encourage and inspire young mushers. When she talks about her Red Lantern, she delivers a clear message – never give up, be willing to take a chance.
When it comes to the Friday evening Jr. Iditarod Musher meeting, Barb and Ann Meyer have worked tirelessly to gather prizes and organize the meeting. They contact Wasilla area merchants as well as mushing supply, attire and equipment companies for donations to support the teenage mushers. Barb sees to the packaging of gloves, hats, hand warmers, socks, lights, booties, water bottles and a number of other useful cold weather items that are presented to each musher at the bib draw. Barb encourages the teens to take time to thank the donors.
It’s a repeat performance for Barb at the Finisher’s Banquet, securing and organizing prizes for the finishers. There seems to be no limit to her energy and her resourcefulness when it comes to supporting the Jr. Iditarod and the young mushers. The finishers literally receive buckets full of prizes. Items in or overflowing from the buckets run the gamut of mushing needs and mushing interests. There’s everything from axes to coolers, books to dog food, sleeping bags to snow shoes and special prizes of fur hats for top finishers and a sled/sled bag combination filled to the brim with mushing paraphernalia for the champion.
For many years Barb traveled out to the halfway checkpoint at Yentna Station, either by plane or snow machine, to park teams and assist with the myriad of necessary tasks at the checkpoint. She sorted drop bags and when the mushers arrived she doled out straw, Heet and Gatorade.
Barb said, “In earlier years of the race there would be twenty or more teams. Al Marple and I would take turns leading the teams to a camping spot on the trails adjacent to the river.” Barb and Al would make sure the teams were parked in the order they’d be leaving. Then in the very early hours of Sunday morning, well before the sun rose, Barb would be out with the teams, assisting them as they left the checkpoint for the final leg of the race to Willow.
When younger legs took over the parking responsibilities, Barb would occasionally find herself in the Yentna Station Roadhouse kitchen helping Dan Gabryszak prepare meals and clean up after serving the small army of Jr. Iditarod checkpoint volunteers.
Joanne Potts of the Iditarod Trail Committee who has worked with Barb on the Jr. Iditarod says, “Barb is one of those people who is just everywhere and helps wherever and whenever needed. As time goes by and people get busier and busier, we see fewer volunteers with the dedication that Barb has for the Jr. Iditarod. She is one of those who never hesitates to give what she can without asking anything in return.”
Barb has served on the Jr. Iditarod Board of Directors for nearly 20 years. She began in 2001 right after her son, Ryan, finished his final Jr. Iditarod with his second championship. Even before then she was asked to help gather prizes. She has been a tireless ambassador for the Jr. Iditarod and the teenage mushers.
Redington has seen the race from every angle – participant, parent, volunteer and Board member. She recalls being on the trail with her two close friends while participating in the inaugural Jr. Iditarod. She continues to advocate for and emphasize the importance of friendships established in mushing. As a Board Member she enjoys helping and working with other dedicated and wonderful people. Barb says, “We do this because we like working with the kids and we want to continue the tradition of this race. As long as there are 14 to 17 year old mushers out there who want to run, we want to keep the race going.”