Thursday, March 31, 2011


  The first of April isn't just another ordinary day.  Also known as April Fool's Day or All Fool's Day.  It is celebrated in a number of countries including America, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
   The origin of April Fool's Day is actually any body's guess, but it is known that it came to England from France or Germany in the mid 17th century.  At one time April 1st coincided with the New Year and was celebrated as such until 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII ordered the new Gregorian Calendar to replace the Julian Calendar.  With there being no computers, telephones and other speedy forms of communicating, word did not travel very fast in those days and therefore many people continued to celebrate New Years Day on April 1st, while some rebelled against this change in their old traditions.
   With some embracing a new system and others fighting progress it is thought that those following the new system mocked the others who were behind the times and sent them on fool's errands, such as to seek non existent objects like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow in order to have some fun at their expense.
   People in England, Germany, Denmark and Norway continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April 1st, up until the mid 1700's, the Scottish adopted the new calendar in 1660.
   April Fool's Day has also been associated with ancient festivals, such as Hilaria which was to celebrate the resurrection of the god Attis, in ancient Rome when people would dress up in various costumes and the Holi festival in India which celebrates the arrival of spring.  During this celebration people play jokes on each other.
   Tricks and hoaxes in England can only be played up until noon.  In France, the victim of the prank is called an April Fish, while in Scotland they are called an April Gowk (gowk is a cuckoo or another word for a fool).  Anyone who tries to continue the jokes into the afternoon re likely to bring bad luck upon themselves.
   According to the Museum of Hoaxes, the best April Fool's joke of all time occurred in 1957 when the BBC news program "Panorama" based a full program on the spaghetti.
Crops in Switzerland and how due to the mild winter and virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper crop.  Some viewers failed to see the funny side, others wanted to know where they could purchase their own spaghetti bush.
   Many people love the excuse to play pranks on others and take full advantage of this opportunity on April Fool's Day, others prefer to keep their heads down and breathe a sigh of relief when the clock strikes 12!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


  April Fool's Day is the one day of the year that serious minded people can go crazy without criticism.  Over the years there have been many great hoaxes that have occurred on or around this day of the year.  The Museum of Hoaxes put together a list of 100, this is a list of the top 15.

  • In 1982, the Daily Mail reported that a local manufacturer had sold 10,000 "rogue bras" that were causing a unique and unprecedented problem, not to the wearers but to the public at large.  Apparently the support wire in these bras had been made out of a kind of copper originally designed for use in fire alarms.  When this copper came into contact with nylon and body heat, it produced static electricity which, in turn, was interfering with local television and radio broadcasts.  The chief engineer of British Telecom, upon reading the article, immediately ordered that all his female laboratory employees disclose what type of bra they were wearing.

  • In 1974 residents of Sitka, Alaska were alarmed when the long dormant volcano neighboring them, Mount Edgecumbe, suddenly began to belch out billows of black smoke.  People spilled out of their homes onto the streets to gaze up at the volcano, terrified that it was active again and might soon erupt.  Luckily it turned out that man, not nature, was responsible for the smoke.  A local practical joker named Porky Bickar had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano's crater and then lit them on fire, all in a (successful) attempt to fool the city dwellers into believing that the volcano was stirring to life.  According to local legend, when Mount St. Helen's erupted six years later, a Sitka resident wrote to Bickar to tell him, "This time you've gone too far"!

  • In February 1708 a previously unknown London astrologer named Isaac Bickerstaff published an almanac in which he predicted the death by fever of the famous rival astrologer John Partridge.  According to Bickerstaff, Partridge would die on March 29th of that year.  Partridge indignantly denied the prediction, but on March 30th, Bickerstaff released a pamphlet announcing that he had been correct.  Partridge was dead.  It took a day for the news to settle in, but soon everyone had heard of the astrologer's demise.  On April 1st, April Fool's Day, Partridge was woken by a seton outside his window who wanted to know if there were any orders for his funeral sermon.  Then, as Partridge walked down the street, people stared at him as if they were looking at a ghost or stopped to tell him that he looked exactly like someone they knew who was dead.  As hard as he tried, Partridge couldn't convince people that he wasn't dead.  Bickerstaff, it turned out, was a pseudonym for the great satirist Jonathan Swift.  His prognosticatory practical joke upon Partridge worked so well that the astrologer finally was forced to stop publishing his almanacs, because he couldn't shake his reputation as the man, whose death had been foretold.

  • IN 1984, back in the Stone Age of the Internet, a message was distributed to the members of Usenet (the online messaging community that was one of the first forms the Internet took) announcing that the Soviet Union was joining Usenet.  This was quite a shock to many, since most assumed that cold war security concerns would have prevented such a link up.  The message purported to come from Konstatin Chernenko (from the address chernenko@kremvax.UUCP) who explained that the Soviet Union wanted to join the network in order to "have a means of having an open discussion forum with the American and European people".  The message created a flood of responses.  Two weeks later its true author, a European man named Piet Beertema, revealed that it was a hoax.  This is believed to be the first hoax on the Internet.  Six years later, when Moscow really did link up to the Internet, it adopted the domain name "kremvax" in honor of the hoax.

  • On March 31st, 1989, thousands of motorists driving on the highway outside London looked up in the air to see a glowing flying saucer descending on their city.  Many of them pulled to the side of the road to watch the bizarre craft float through the air.  The saucer finally landed in a field on the outskirts of London where local residents immediately called the police to warn them of an alien invasion.  Soon the police arrived on the scene, and one brave officer approached the craft with his truncheon extended before him.  When a door in the craft popped open, and a small, silver suited figure emerged, the policeman ran in the opposite direction.  The saucer turned out to be a hot air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36 year old chairman of Virgin Records.  The stunt combined his passion for ballooning with his love of pranks.  His plan was to land the craft in London's Hyde Park on April 1st.  Unfortunately, the wind blew him off course, and he was forced to land a day early in the wrong location.

  • In 1976, the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 a.m., a once in a lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes.  The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity.  Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation.  When the time arrived, BBC2 began to received hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation.  One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

  • In its April 1995 issue, Discover Magazine announced that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had discovered a new species in Antarctica, the hotheaded naked ice borer.  These fascinating creatures had bony plated on their heads that, fed by numerous blood vessels, could become burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds.  They used this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice beneath the penguins and causing them to sink downwards into the resulting slush where the hotheads consumed them.  After much research, Dr. Pazzo theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837.  "To the ice borer, he would have looked like a penguin", the article quoted her as saying.  Discover received more mail in response to this article than they had received for any other article in their history.

  • In 1998, Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today, announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu, a "Left Handed Whopper", specially designed for the 32 million left handed Americans.  According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180- degrees for the benefit of their left handed customers.  The following day Burger King issued a follow up release revealing that although the Left Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich.  Simultaneously, according to the press release, many others requested their own "right handed" version.

  • The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the "Biblical value" of 3.0  Before long the article had made its way onto the Internet, and then it rapidly made its way around the world, forwarded by people in their email.  It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls form people protesting the legislation.  The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislator attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by a physicist named Mark Boslough.

  • In 1992, National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again.  His new campaign slogan was "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again".  Accompanying the announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech.  Listeners responded viscerally to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage.  Only during the second half of the show did the host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke.  Nixon's voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.

  • In 1977, the British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven page supplement in honor of the tenth anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi colon shaped islands.  A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation.  Its two main islands wee named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse.  Its capitol was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica.  The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot.  Few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer's terminology.  The success of the hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that then gripped the British tabloids in the following decades.

  • In 1996, the Taco Bell Corporation announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell.  Hundreds of outraged citizens call up the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is housed to express their anger.  Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed that it was all a practical joke a few hours later.  The best line inspired by the affair came when the White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, and he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, though to a different corporation, and would now be know as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

  • In 1962, there was only one t.v. channel in Sweden, and it broadcast in black and white.  The station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that thanks to a newly developed technology, all viewers could now quickly and easily convert their existing set to display color reception.  All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their t.v. screen, and they would begin to see their favorite shows in color.  Stensson then proceeded to demonstrate the process.  Reportedly, hundreds of thousands of people, out of the population of seven million, were taken in.  Actual color t.v. transmission only commenced in Sweden on April 1st, 1970.

  • In its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets.  His name was Sidd Finch and he could reportedly throw a baseball with startling, pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph (65 mph faster than anyone else has ever been able to throw a ball).  Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never even played the game before.  Instead, he had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa".  Mets fans everywhere celebrated at their team's amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and Sports Illustrated was flooded with requests for more information.  But in reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the writer of the article, George Plimpton.

  • In 1957, the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thank to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop.  It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees.  Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.  To this question, the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best".

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


   Doing some shopping , but can't seem to find any ideas for the paranormal investigator in your life?  Here are some very helpful tips and things they may have on their wish lists to help them catch and record paranormal activity.

Thermal Imaging Camera- Got a spare $10,000 laying around?  Yes, thermal imaging technology isn't cheap at all, but it is one of the best tools out there for collecting evidence of paranormal activity.  It senses any and all changes in the ambient air temperature in a room, and you can actually see the anomaly on the screen, outlined in the appropriate color.  It shows how cold or hot an area , object, or anomaly is.  You can find fine used equipment, but it will still set you back anywhere from $6,000 on up!!

Infrared Video Camera- They aren't cheap either, but they are the best video cameras to capture evidence on either tape or digital, although most of the better models are digital.  Infrared cameras are basically night vision.  While you can find the cheaper, less functional night "shot" cameras, they are not the same.  Night "shot" cameras use a dim back light to lighten the area around the camera lens, so it does work to a very small extend.  Actual infrared cameras, or real night vision, transmit an invisible infrared light out into the room, which returns the signal back into the lens, and the images are recorded.  This is a perfect gift for gathering paranormal evidence.

EMF Detector- EMF stands for Electro-Magnetic Field.  What this device does is measure the electrical, magnetic, and radio waves in and around the area you are at.  As with all these devices in this list, there are several varieties you can choose from.  There are analog and digital, as well as gauges with a needle and models with sound.  It is theorized that when an entity is present and trying to manifest itself, it will draw energy from the electromagnetic field in the atmosphere around it.  These meters will detect any and all fluctuations that occur.  There are some models that are made specifically for detecting high altitude UFO's and other upper atmosphere phenomena such as geomagnetic and solar storms.  These meters range in price from $100 up to and beyond $400 for high end models.

Audio recording device for EVP work- EVP stand for Electronic Voice Phenomena.  What that is, is a disembodied voice or noise that is caught on an audio recording device, which you don't hear with the naked ear.  This device can range from a tape or digital recorder, on up to a boom mic set up and even video recorders.  This equipment is fairly inexpensive, but can become pricey for the higher end recording equipment.  Most audio recording devices, that works just fine, range anywhere from $25 up towards $80 dollars.  $50 dollars will get you a nice digital recorder, which will work perfectly

Temperature Scanner- These little devices read the room temperature, showing on the display if there is any fluctuation in air temperature.  Unlike the thermal imaging camera, these don't record the air temperature or show the room in colors.  It merely takes the room temperature and shows it on the display.  Or there are models that have a laser pointer, which will take the temperature in a specific spot.  These range in the area of $60 dollars and up to $300.

Video Camera- Pretty self explanatory here; this device will record any activity in the room.  There are tape and digital versions, and they have a wide price range.  Models usually range anywhere between $100 to a couple thousand dollars.

Still Photography Camera- There are many makes and models.  Again, you will find price ranges up and down the scale.  Do your homework, research before you buy, compare the features/brands for the the best deal and camera for you.

Ultraviolet Flashlight- These lights range from a single LED or bulb, and can be had with as many as 28 LED lights.  The more illumination, the pricier they get.  They are commonly known as "black lights".  They are used to illuminate anomalous activity so it can be seen with the naked eye.  They work very well.  Decent one range anywhere between $50 and $80 dollars.

Books and Videos on Paranormal Topics- It is always entertaining and educational to a paranormal investigator to watch and read of other people's accounts, and other investigators' findings.

Geiger Counter- These instruments measure radiation in roentgens.  What these will do is measure the field of where a UFO has been.  UFO's leave traces, and sometimes more, of radioactive substances in the air and where they have landed on the ground.  It is an essential tool for the UFO-ologist.  They come in digital and analog displays, as well as the old kind with the gauge and needle.  They are relatively inexpensive as well, but as with all, they can get pricey.
   There is the top ten list of gifts for the paranormal investigator.  Maybe you'll get some of these items for someone you know or maybe for yourself.  Then you can go out and SCARE SOMETHING UP!!!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011


History of the Iditarod

   The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race first ran to Nome in 1973, after two short races on part of the Iditarod Trail in 1967 and 1969.  The idea of having a race over the Iditarod Trail was conceived by the late Dorothy Page.  In 1964, Page was chairwoman of the Wasilla-Knik Centennial and was working on projects to celebrate Alaska's Centennial Year n 1967.
   She was intrigued that dog teams could travel over land that was not accessible by autos.  In the early 1920's, settlers had come to Alaska following a gold strike.  They traveled by boat to the coastal towns of Seward and Knik and from there, by land into the gold fields.  The trail they used is today known as The Iditarod Trail, one of the National Historic Trails as so designated b the U.S. Congress.  In the winter, their only means of travel was by dog team.

   The Iditarod Trail soon became the major thoroughfare through Alaska.  Mail was carried across this trail, people used the trail to get from place to place and supplies were transported via the Iditarod Trail.  Priests, minister, and judges traveled between villages via dog teams.
   All too soon the gold mining began to slack off.  People began to go back to where they had come from and suddenly there was less travel on the Iditarod Trail.  The use of the airplane in the late 1920's signaled the beginning of the end of the dog team as a standard mode of transportation, and of course with the airplane carrying the mail, there was less need for land travel.  The final blow to the use of the dog teams came with the appearance of snowmobiles in Alaska.

   By the mid 60's, most people in Alaska didn't even know there was an Iditarod Trail or that dog teams had played a very important part in Alaska's early settlement.  Dorothy Page, a resident of Wasilla and self made historian, recognized the importance of an awareness of the use of sled dogs as working animals and of the Iditarod Trail and the important part it played in Alaska's history.
   She presented the possibility of a race over the Iditarod Trail to Joe Redington, Sr., a musher from the Knik area.  Soon the Pages and the Redingtons began promoting the idea of the Iditarod Race to the extent that Joe and Vi Redington moved to the Knik area from their homestead at Flat Horn Lake and they have never moved back.

   The Aurora Dog Musher Club, along with men from the Adult Camp in Sutton helped clear years of over growth from the first 9 miles of the Iditarod Trail in time to put on the first short Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1967.  A $25,000 purse was offered in that race with Joe and Vi Redington donating one acre of their land at Flat Horn Lake adjacent to the Iditarod Trail to help raise the funds. ( the land was subdivided into one square foot lots and sold with a deed and special certificate of ownership, raising $10,000 toward the purse)  Contestants from all over Alaska and even two contestants form Massachusetts entered that first Iditarod Race, but a newcomer, Issac Okleasik, from Teller, Alaska, won the race with his team of large working dogs.  The short race of approximately 27 miles, was put on again in 1969.

Joe Redington Sr.

   The goal was to have the race go all the way to the ghost town of Iditarod in 1973.  However in 1972, the U.S. Army reopened the trail as a winter exercise and in 1973, the decision was made to take the race the 1,000 plus miles to Nome.  Redington and Page were instrumental in getting the first long Iditarod on its way to Nome in 1973, amidst comments that it couldn't be done.  There were many who believed it was crazy to send a bunch of mushers out into the vast uninhabited Alaskan wilderness.  But the race went on.  22 mushers finished that year and to date, there have been over 400 finishers.  Mushers have come from Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Italy,Japan, Austria, Australia, Sweden and the Soviet Union as well as from about 20 different states in the United States.

   The late Dorothy Page, the "mother of the Iditarod" is quoted in the October 1979 issue of the Iditarod Runner on her intent for the Iditarod: "To keep the spirit of the Iditarod the same.  I don't even want to see high pressure people getting in and changing the spirit of the race.  We brought the sled dog back and increased the number of mushers.  It is really an Alaskan event.  I think the fact that it starts in Anchorage and then ends in Nome has opened up a whole new area for people in Alaska. I think they appreciate that it puts them in touch with the pioneer spirit".

Iditarod Today

   The race has started in downtown Anchorage since 1983.  The teams leave the start line at the corner of 4th and D, at two minute intervals.  Starting at 10 a.m.  There are usually over 65 teams starting and some years even more.
   The mushers follow a  multi use trail through Anchorage and out to Tudor Road.  A telephone auction is held each year whereby fans can be a rider in a musher's sled from the start line for the first 8-9 miles.  This auction opens on October 1st and closes at 5 p.m. Alaska Standard Time on January 31st.  The money raised is used to offset expenses of the race and to provide each musher who finishes the race after the top 20 (who received cash prize winnings), with $1,049.  This helps the mushers get their teams home.  The mush along the Glenn Highway into the VFW Post 9785 in Eagle River.  From there the dogs are loaded into dog trucks and taken home for the night.  This is a ceremonial start and does not count in the overall time to Nome.

   On Sunday, March 8th, mushers will again line up at the old Wasilla Airport in Wasilla about 40 miles north of Anchorage.  At 10 a.m. the first teams will depart on their way to Nome.
   From Wasilla, they travel to Knik Lake, the last checkpoint on the road system.  Spectatros may drive the 17 miles from Anchorage to Eagle River and the approximately 30 miles from Eagle River to Wasilla.  It's about 13 miles from Wasilla ti Knik.  Once the mushers leave the Knik checkpoint, they are off the road system for the duration of the race.

   It is impossible to predict the exact day or time that the first musher will cross the finish line in Nome.  However,  it is expected to be between 9 and 12 days, making it on the second Tuesday or Wednesday.  Doug Swingley, the 1995 Champion, completed the course in 9 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes and 19 seconds to become the first usher from outside Alaska to ever win the Iditarod.

Friday, March 25, 2011


    You can't compare it to any other competitive event in the world.  A race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain Mother Nature has to offer.  She throws jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast at the mushers and their dog teams.  Add to that, temperatures far below zero, winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills, and you have the Iditarod.
   From Anchorage, in south central Alaska, to Nome on the western Bering Sea coast, each team of 12to 16 dogs and their musher, cover over 1150 miles in 10 to 17 days.

   It has been call the "Last Great Race on Earth" and it has won worldwide acclaim and interest.  German, Spanish, British, Japanese and American film crews have covered the event.  Journalists from outdoor magazines, adventure magazines, newspapers and wire services flock to Anchorage and Nome to record the excitement.  It's not just a dog sled race.  It's a race in which unique men and women compete.  Mushers enter from all walks of life.  Fishermen, lawyers, doctors, miners, artists, natives, Canadians, Swiss, French and others, men and women each with their own story, each with their own reasons for going the distance.  It's a race organized and run primarily by volunteers, thousands of volunteers, men and women, students and village residents.  They man headquarters at Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Nome and Wasilla.  They fly volunteers, veterinarians, dog food and supplies.  They act as checkers, coordinators, and family supporters of each musher.

Northern Route

The Spirit of Alaska!  More Than a Race...a Commemoration

   The race pits man and animal against nature, against wild Alaska at her best and as each mile is covered, a tribute to Alaska's past is issued.  The Iditarod is a tie to a commemoration of that colorful past.
   The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elm, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome.  Mail and supplies went in.  Gold came out.  All via dog sled.  Heroes were made, legends were born.
   In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic stricken Nome.  Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in...again by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard driving dogs.
   The Iditarod is a commemoration of those yesterdays, a not so distant past that Alaskans honor and are proud of.

Southern Route

An Event for All Alaska

   Anchorage is the starting line...a city of over 250,000 people, street lights, freeways and traffic.  From there the field of dog teams which grow in number each year run to Eagle River,  Checkpoint #1.  After a restart in the Matanuska Valley at Wasilla, the mushers leave the land of highway and bustling activity and head out to the Yenta Stations Roadhouse and Skewentna and then up.  Through Finger Lake, Rainy Pass, over the Alaska Range and down the other side to the Kuskokwin River...Rohn Roadhouse, Nikolai, McGrath, Ophir, Cripple, Iditarod and on to the mighty Yukon...a river highway that takes the teams west through the arctic tundra.

   The race route is alternated every other year, one year going north through Cripple, Ruby and Galena, the next year south through Iditarod, Shageluk, Anvik.
   Finally, they're on the coast...Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Elm, Golovin, White Mountain and into Nome where a hero's welcome is the custom for musher number 1 or 61!
   The route encompasses large metropolitan areas and small native villages.  It causes a yearly spurt of activity, increased airplane traffic and excitement to areas otherwise quiet and dormant during the long Alaskan winter.  Everyone gets involved, from very young schools children to the old timers who relive the colorful Alaskan past they've known as they watch each musher and his team.  The race is an educational opportunity and an economic stimulus to these small Alaskan outposts.

   The "I" logo, a trademark of the Iditarod Trail Committee Inc. and the Iditarod Race, was designed by Alaskan artist Bill Devine in the early years of the race.  The design is done on a white background with blue thread for the dog and inner outline.  The Outer outline is done in red.  The design is used on a shield and was used on wooden trail markers in the earlier races.

On the Trail

   Every mushers has a different tactic.  Each one has a special menu for feeding and snacking the dogs.  Each one has a different strategy...some run in the daylight, some run at night.  Each one has a different training schedule and his own ideals on dog care, dog stamina and his own personal ability.

   The rules of the race lay out certain regulations which each musher must abide by.  There are certain pieces of equipment each team  must have...an arctic parka, a heavy sleeping bag, an ax, snowshoes, musher food, dog food and boots for each dog's feet to protect against cutting ice and hard packed snow injuries.
   Some mushers spend an entire year getting ready and raising the money needed to get to Nome.  Some prepare around a full time job.  In addition to planning the equipment and feeding needs for up to three weeks on the trail, hundreds of hours and hundreds of miles of training have to be put on each team.
   There are names which are automatically associated with the race...Joe Redington, Sr., co founder of the classic and affectionately known as "Father of the Iditarod".  Rick Swenson from Two River, Alaska, the only five time winner, the only musher to have entered 20 Iditarod races and never finished out of the top ten.  Dick Mackey from Nenana, who beat Swenson by one second in 1978, to achieve the impossible photo finish after two weeks on the trail.  Norman Vaughan who at the age of 88, has finished the race four times and led an expedition to Antarctica in the winter of 93-94.  Four time winner, Susan Butcher, was the first woman to ever place in the top 10.  And of course, Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


   The Calle Ocho Festival or "El Festival de la Calle Ocho", is a one day "rumba"-fiesta-that culminates the Miami Carnival.  This festival takes place in March each year between 27th avenue and 4th avenue, along Southwest 8th street, that is 23 blocks along "Calle Ocho" in "Little Havana" with activities for everybody.
   Even thought this festival is not counted amongst the official Hispanic holidays, more than 1 million people attend this block party to participate, and to see top Hispanic artists perform at every street intersection at the designated stages.

   You can hear salsa, reggeaton, merengue, bachata, balada, hip hop and more.  Personalities like El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Cellia Cruz, Oscar D'Leon, El Grupo Niche and many more have performed at the festival
   "El Festival de la Calle Ocho", is one incredible party that in 1998 was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for having the longest conga line in the world with 119,000 people participating in it.
   Music is not the only attraction going on at this Hispanic festival, the super famous block party has a kid's area with clowns, magicians, food galore, and products geared to moms and children.

   Another area of the festival is the "party zone", which is filled with a "carnaval" atmosphere, with street dancers and musicians that interact with the public.  It is a novelty for non-Hispanic people to see the salseros or salsa dancer on the street.  They come from the major salsa schools.  But you will also see many people dancing to the same rhythms. 

Foods at "Festival de la Calle Ocho"

   One of the best attractions of the festival is the food, it has many typical Latin flavors, especially of Cuban origin.  It included hundreds of kiosks or booths that offer international food along with a sampling of free products....all at the rhythm of lively Hispanic music.
   You can find ropa vieja con plantos (shredded skirt steak with plantains), carbrito (baby goat), other barbecued meats, arepas (which come form Colombia, Venezuela, etc.), and the delicious ceviche (seafood).
   The most popular drink is Cuba Libre.  To make it...use rum and coke served with a wedge of lime.  You can also find fresh fruit juices at restaurants and Mojito Cubano, a drink that is made with white rum, lemon, and mint.

Some History of the Festival

   In 1978, Cubans invited the neighborhood to know more about Cuban culture and Calle Ocho Festival was born.
   This festival happens in the heart of "Little Havana", a wonderful neighborhood where the festive air invades it all at any time of the day.  In the morning you can smell the scent of coffee recently brewed and enjoy a "cafe' con leche", along with freshly bakes pastries.  At lunchtime beans, rice, Cuban sandwiches, etc. are amongst the favorite and popular foods you can find.
   The "Little Havana" enclave started because in the 1960's, Cuban refugees began settling around Miami's "Calle Ocho" and another major influx of Cubans occurred during the Mariel boat lift of 1980, that ended up increasing the Cuban population in and around the Miami area.

    The stores along Calle Ocho sell typical Cuban and more recently South and Central American products, (especially Nicaraguan) as new immigrants make their way into the neighborhood.
   The Calle Ocho Festival is the perfect party for travelers to enjoy all of the different flavors of Cuba and other Latin American Countries.  This part of Miami is ripe with the music, art and flavors or many different Hispanic cultures, all living in one place.  Attending the Calle Ocho Festival will make you feel like your in another country without leaving the United States.