Alaska life

35th Annual Koyukuk River Championship

The start and finish line of the Koyukuk River Championship dog races. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman
The start and finish line of the Koyukuk River Championship dog races. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman

The Koyukuk River Championship (KRC) is held each April, and is hosted by Huslia, Hughes or Allakaket/Alatna. Communities host a multitude of spring carnival activities, including dog races, snowshoe races, ice picking contest, dances and more. Attendees enjoy reconnecting with friends and relatives, making new friends, getting in races, and celebrating spring. It takes a tremendous amount of volunteer hours to coordinate the KRC.

Lois Vent gets ready to cross the finish line in the Woman's Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman
Lois Vent gets ready to cross the finish line in the Woman’s Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard-Huffman

Mushers train all year and raise racing teams. People are telling stories. Mushing fans get to hear “dog talk”, where you can listen to stories and strategies for racing. Many dog owners race their own teams, but they also find mushers to race with their dogs.

Huslia hosted the 35th annual KRC on April 4-6. I unfortunately did not make it to Huslia, but I followed along with updates from friends and family. Many of the races are dedicated to local residents who have passed away in the past couple of years. The races bring people from the Koyukuk River and as far away as Kotzebue.

They also had fun games, like the Men’s and Woman’s Beer Scramble. Marc Brown and the Blues Crew and other fiddlers provided entertainment in the evenings.

Danielle Ballard-Huffman and Dolly Simon-Dayton posted photos and updates several times throughout the weekend. Here are the results and photos they shared.

35th ANNUAL KOYUKUK RIVER CHAMPIONSHIP 2014 RESULTS

Ice picking contestants. Photo by Danielle Ballard-Huffman
Ice picking contestants. Photo by Danielle Ballard-Huffman

• Ice Pick Contest •
1st – Ricko DeWilde
2nd – Ricky Vent
3rd – Guy Sommer
4th – Virgil Sam
5th – David Vent

• Old Timer’s Women’s Snowshoe Race – In Memory of Emily Sam •
1st – Agnes Dayton
2nd – Marilyn Roberts
3rd – Mabel Vent
4th – Dorothy Yatlin
5th – Selina Sam

• Old Timer’s Men’s Snowshoe Race – In Memory of Emily Sam •
1st – Percy Lolnitz Sr.
2nd – William Derendoff

The crowd on the Koyukuk River and along the bank watch as the contestants line up for the Woman's Snowshoe Race. Photo by Dolly Simon-Dayton
The crowd on the Koyukuk River and along the bank watch as the contestants line up for the Woman’s Snowshoe Race. Photo by Dolly Simon-Dayton

• Women’s Snowshoe Race – In Memory of Emily Sam •
1st – Carolyn “Sweetsy” Sam
2nd – Shirley Sam
3rd – Leslie Jones
4th – Molissa Bifelt
5th – Alisha Vent
6th – Maddy ?
7th – Lacey Sam
8th – Jody Potts
9th – LeAnn Bifelt
10th – Samantha Sam
11th – Tatiana Esmailka
12th – Leah David
13th – Ava Vent
[Pot Set Winner – Selina Sam; (Underage) Pot Winner – Tatiana; $100 – Jody Potts]

Many snowshoe racers train throughout the year. A few others raced and even came out of retirement to honor the late Emily Sam. Darrell and his son, Darrel II took the top two spots. Darrell’s wife, Shirley Sam, placed second in the Woman’s race.

“By the time this race comes around, I’m up to 500 sit-ups a day before the race. If they knew how hard I have to train and how hard they would have to train, I wouldn’t be up here.” – Darrell Sam, Snowshoe race veteran

Contestants line up for the start of the Men's Snowshoe Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman
Contestants line up for the start of the Men’s Snowshoe Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman

• Men’s Snowshoe Race – In Memory of Emily Sam •
1st – Darrell Sam II
2nd – Darrell Sam
3rd – William McCarty
4th – Allen Titus
5th – Percy Lolnitz II
6th – Devin Penn
7th – Kevin Albert
8th – Vincent Nickoli
9th – Ricky Vent
10th – Virgil Sam
11th – P.J. Simon
12th – Justin Vent
13th – Samuel Barney
14th – Alvin Dayton

[Snowshoes – Virgil Sam; $100 – Darrell Sam; $100 – P.J. Simon]

• Old Timer’s Dog Race – In Memory of Emily Sam •
1st – Ricky Vent
2nd – Harding Sam
3rd – George Attla Jr.
4th – Alvin Dayton
5th – William Derendoff

George Attla Jr. Photo by Danielle Ballard-Huffman
George Attla Jr. Photo by Danielle Ballard-Huffman
Agnes Dayton and Jody Potts are neck and neck at the finish line of the Woman's Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman
Agnes Dayton and Jody Potts are neck and neck at the finish line of the Woman’s Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman

• Women’s Dog Race – In Memory of Christine Attla •
1st – Leslie Jones
2nd – Lois Vent
3rd – Susie Sam
4th – Haley Sam
5th – Tammy Joseph
6th – Katie Reimer
7th – Kimberly Moses
8th – Jody Potts
9th – Agnes Dayton
10th – Eleanor Sam
11th – Kelsey Jackson

Alexander Vent and Nicole Gregory come in at the the same time in the Open KRC Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman
Alexander Vent and Nicole Gregory come in at the the same time in the Open KRC Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard-Huffman

• Open KRC Dog Race (2 days) – In Memory of Emily Sam •
1st – George Attla III (total time 101:44)
2nd – Francis Captain (total time 110:07)
3rd – Alexander Vent (total time 111:33)
4th – Luke Sampson (total time 112:14)
5th – Tyler Huntington (total time 115:58)
6th – James Henry (total time 119:52)
7th – Todd Bergman (total time 120:47)
8th – Andrew Huntington (total time 131:22)
9th – Benedict Jones (total time 131:28)
10th – P.J. Simon (total time 132:38)
11th – Nicole Gregory – disqualified

The Open KRC dog race has traditionally been mostly men. Nicole Gregory unfortunately hit a stump on the second day, and was disqualified. Learn more about the KRC and previous champions here.

A Calcutta was held for the Open KRC Dog Race and Woman’s Dog Race.

Leslie Jones accepts the 1st place trophy in the Woman's Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman
Leslie Jones accepts the 1st place trophy in the Woman’s Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard-Huffman

• Calcutta Winners •
Open KRC Dog Race
1. Shandara, Josephine, Vanessa
2. Alberta Vent
3. Virgil & Luke

Women’s Dog Race
1. Virgil Sam
2. Tim Pavlick
3. Mabel Vent

• Raffle Winners •
KRC t-shirt – Justin Vent
KRC sweatpants – Jacienda Vent
KRC sweatshirt – Aaron Kozevnikoff
KRC t-shirt – Brian & Bev Weter
KRC sweatpants – Kim Moses
KRC sweatshirt – Francis captain
KRC t-shirt – Elsie vent
Beaded Box – Jo Derendoff
KRC sweatpants – Gavin Sam
Small tlaabaas – Kat Sam
Spirit of the Wind – Jo Derendoff
KRC sweatshirt – Ryan & Jenna Olin
Large Tlaabaas – Keith Bifelt
Beaded Picture Frame – Robert Attla
Knife Set – Karen Sam
20 Gallons of Gas – Vincent Simon
Beaver Pelt – Nancy Ambrose
$100 from Compeaus – Shirley Nickoli
Beaded Gloves – Samson Henry
Fisher Hat – Stewart Cleaver
Painting by NV – Nicole Gregory
Mini iPad – Annie Vent
R/T Wrights Air – Shirley Nickoli
Half Moose Skin – Annie Vent
$500 – Marion Huntington
$1000 – Cecelia Grant

Luke Sampson of Kotzebue took 4th place in the Open KRC Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard Huffman
Luke Sampson of Kotzebue took 4th place in the Open KRC Dog Race. Photo by Danielle Ballard-Huffman

Congratulations to all winners and participants of the 2014 KRC. I love seeing the continuation of traditional sports, like dog mushing, snowshoe racing and ice picking contest. Thank you to volunteers from the communities of Huslia, Hughes, Allakakat and Alatna for continuing to host the KRC. Thank you to the KRC sponsors and supporters for making it all possible.

Ana basee’ to Danielle Ballard-Huffman and Dolly Simon-Dayton for allowing me to share their updates and photos!

0 thoughts on “35th Annual Koyukuk River Championship”

  1. Great site cuz!! I used the info for my newsletter, thanks. 🙂 Was not able to find it under the KRC Events for some reason. Ba’see!!

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