Participants in the 41st running of the race include six past Iditarod winners, including Seavey and his father, Mitch Seavey. Dallas Seavey also is among six past winners of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, held just weeks before the Iditarod.
Lance Mackey of Fairbanks — the only musher to ever win both races the same year — just scratched from the Quest in February because of a team of ailing dogs. He is going for a fifth win in the Iditarod, this time taking mostly young dogs and only four veterans from the Quest.
At Saturday's ceremonial start, fans regularly stopped by to wish him luck.
"This is like a pregame warm-up," Mackey said of the party-like atmosphere.
Sunday will bring a more highly charged approach among contenders.
"It's game time, and you get your game face on," Mackey said. "Put some blinders on — and go race."
Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen in Anchorage contributed to this report.
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