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Iditarod champ returns home to Kotzebue parade, gives motivational talk at school

March 22nd, 2011 | Alex DeMarban Print this article   Email this article  

Iditarod champ and record-breaker John Baker returned home to a hero's welcome Monday afternoon, complete with a siren-wailing parade and traditional drumming and dancing by Kotzebue's Northern Lights Dancers.

Of course, he also gave an inspirational speech at the high school. See videos by Cathy Jones at her blog by clicking here. []

The celebration was awesome and appropriately loud.

Sharon Milbocker, mayor's assistant at the Northwest Arctic Borough, heard someone call the parade the "Fourth of July in March."

An apt description, she said.

No candy was tossed out, but fire trucks and ambulances made all the noise they could. A caravan of cars blared a cacophony of horns. Baker, whisked from the airport, rode in a truck with family and waved, said Milbocker.

"Everyone's very happy to share in that win with him," she said. "He's the first Native to win in how many years?"

Thirty-five, to be exact.

Baker, an Inupiaq and 48, won this year's race after he and his dog team covered more than 1,123 miles in 8 days, 18 hours, and 46 minutes, setting a new record.


Alex DeMarban can be reached at

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