Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Joe Redington, Sr.
Joe Redington, Sr. was interviewed in 1982 by Susan Cortte for a radio series about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. In this interview, Joe talks about how the Iditarod Race has changed, improvements in dogs, dog care, and trail conditions, the importance of sponsors, and running and training for the All-Alaska Sweepstakes Race.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 87-77-01

Project: Dog Mushing in Alaska Project Jukebox
Date of Interview:
Narrator(s): Joe Redington, Sr.
Interviewer(s): Susan Cortte
Transcriber: Carol McCue
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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Sections

The first year of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Changes in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Running the All Alaska Sweepstakes Race

Race times and speeds of dogs

Training for the All Alaska Sweepstakes Race

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Transcript

SUSAN CORTTE: Joe, 10 years ago the race began, you started it all.

Did you think first that it was going to be possible and that you really were going to -- it was going to come this far? Ít looks like it's pretty well tradition.

JOE REDINGTON: Well, I probably didn't think it would get this big this quick, but it has, and I felt that we could continue the race.

I know when we got to Nome that first year we asked the people in Nome, "Do you want to see another race?" And everybody shouted, "Yes, we want another race." And I said, "Okay. We'll give you a race bigger and better," and we've done that.

SUSAN CORTTE: Joe, how has the race changed in the years?

JOE REDINGTON: Well, it's speeded up to where now it's -- you know, the first couple of years it was hard on dogs and the mushers come into Nome and they were looking pretty good because they got a lot of sleep, but that's changed a lot.

Now the -- the dogs come in looking great because we are bred for better dogs and we know how to take care of the dogs, we feed them better, and now the musher comes in looking like heck.

SUSAN CORTTE: How about, I -- I know there's always this real struggle on the Iditarod Trail committee between, you know, trying to make the race more professional and X-ing out the rookies and mandatory cutoff and things like that.

How would you like to see the race continue?

JOE REDINGTON: I want it just like it is. I think it will be just -- it's -- I think it's perfect like it is because we have one mandatory layover, which gives you a little bit of a chance to catch your breath.

And one thing that's made this race possible is our sponsors. Without our sponsors, most of our mushers couldn't do anything because the race is a real expensive race to run.

It costs thousands of dollars, and our sponsors are behind us, and it really helps a hundred percent.

SUSAN CORTTE: Now I'd like to ask you about the All Alaska Sweepstakes race. Are you going to be running it?

JOE REDINGTON: I will be running in the Alaska Sweepstakes race, for sure.

SUSAN CORTTE: Joe, what's the fascination for you with the All Alaska Sweepstakes race? Is it sort of a part of reliving history and stuff back in the days when dog mushing began in Alaska?

JOE REDINGTON: That's right. It was one of the first great races, the dog sled races in Alaska, and it's something that there was a lot of history; and there was a lot of work put into it, and I think it's great that we're able to do it.

And you know, in '75 we celebrated the Serum Run, and when I was in that, I ran the first -- took Wild Bill Shannon's place out of Nenana, and I really enjoyed it.

I thought it was great that we do things like that.

SUSAN CORTTE: Joe, you were saying that you think they can beat Iron Man Johnson's record. What about that? Trails are going to be not quite as good, but you said you think they can beat it?

JOE REDINGTON: Oh, I think so. I think in the 10 years that we have run the Iditarod, we have improved the dogs a lot more than what they was improved in back those days, and I feel that we can.

If I remember correctly, it was about 76 hours, and I think we can -- I think we can -- somebody will beat that, I'm pretty sure.

SUSAN CORTTE: Any predictions on what -- what type of a team is going to win it? Like, will it be a sprint team like George Attla or Charlie Champaine?

Will it be a mid-distancer like Ed Salter or will it be an Iditarod team? Or is it going to be some combination of all of those?

JOE REDINGTON: Well, I -- I think it might be an Iditarod team. Those -- they will all do good, especially those top sprint teams. I mean, they'll train for and they'll do good.

The only advantage we have is probably the less chance of maybe clipping a dog or hauling a dog or something like that because there's no dog drops in that, and you've got to bring all the dogs in, and --

and it's going to be something that's going to require really choosing a good team that you know is going to be dependable, and I think from the Iditarod that we know more about just what dog would be able to do that.

SUSAN CORTTE: One more last question. How long have you been training for this race, thinking about it?

JOE REDINGTON: For the Sweepstakes race? Oh, I've been thinking about it ever since that they told me about it. And I think it's a great idea.

And I've been, you know, just picking a dog here and there that I thought might be a top dog for in that race. And I'm going to continue to do that right up until next year's race.

SUSAN CORTTE: Okay. Thanks a lot, Joe.

JOE REDINGTON: You bet.

SUSAN CORTTE: Bye bye.