The Iditarod Banquet - The Planning and the Event

Our classroom Iditarod banquet is based in true Iditarod traditions. The real mushers attend a banquet before the race. It is here where the mushers draw for their starting position in the race. It is a time for mushers to thank their sponsors, families and supporters. There is, of course, good food and entertainment.

Iditarod Banquet: Source:

Iditarod Banquet Source:

Getting Ready
Each year we plan the banquet, which contains within it its own set of lessons. The children learn how to write an invitation. Depending on the age of your students and your plans, you can do this several different ways (one invitation is created, each child writes an invitation to someone, etc.) The children discuss manners and appropriate behavior at a social event, learn about setting a table, and make the table cloths for our "banquet tables" (desks pushed together). We decorate the room with the northern like painting the children have created and hang Iditarod poetry the children have created. The room will be full, and the children know there is to be no fooling around. We spend about a month practicing for the entertainment (see below).

The Menu
We read a blog, written by a dog named Zuma. Zuma used to write about wanted her favorite food, pizza. Now she writes about eating more healthy food. But, our Classroom Iditarod banquet will continue the tradition of eating pizza at our banquet. We also serve "fish head stew." It is a mix of apple juice and the heads of gummy fish. A mystery until the banquet. There are also cookies for dessert. If you are ambitious, you can purchase dog and sled cookie cutters for an authentic look (available on the Iditarod store site).

As of 2010 our menu has changed! We have begun to discuss the kind of food you might eat if you were going to be a part of this difficult race. The mushers really need to plan what they are going to eat because they need to think of nutrition, but they also know that when they are cold and tired, they aren't going to want to eat. So, sometimes the mushers pack some items they know they will eat when they want to just grab a quick bite. Our students now work in small groups to think of some food items that would be best to pack have for quick snacks but that can also offer some needed nutrition. They come up with some good ideas, such as grapes, cheese, and soft pretzels.

The Guests
We invite or fifth grade buddies, who are also our Iditarod sponsors. We also invite the previous year's first place Classroom Iditarod winners. These special guests sit at a reserved table. They practice a speech and present it during part of the banquet. Select "adult" guests, such as the principal, are also invited. We also have a special teacher who has been coming and assisting every year. She knows that I need help cutting and serving the pizza. It is quite a crowd.
The Entertainment
Our second graders learn to sing The Iditarod Song by Hobo Jim, who is a great supporter of the real Iditarod. He often performs at their banquet. You can probably find his CD online, and it is definitely available on the Iditarod store site (the song is a MUST). Once you learn the song, you will never forget it. We use a version of the Cotton-Eye Joe dance and create a nice performance piece for our guests (I watch.) The class performs after we eat and then at the end of the banquet because once just isn't enough!

The Third Graders
After the entertainment, the third graders give their speech. As veteran mushers and past winners, they encourage the rookies to do their best. This is a great honor for the third graders. Many current second graders are motivated to win because they want to be able to come back the next year to the banquet.

The Sponsors
After the singing and dancing, the mushers and sponsors to their "thing." Each musher/sponsor pair stands up. The mushers introduce themselves, same their name and "bib" number and thank their sponsor by name. Then, the sponsor (our fifth grade buddies) introduce themselves, tell which company they represesnt (researched on the Iditarod site for authenticity) and wish the mushers good luck. Some sponsors enjoy dressing for the part and bring product samples.

The Drawing!
After the speeches are over, each musher is randomly chosen to come up an pick which musher he or she will be following during the real Iditarod race. At the end of the drawing, as I mentioned, the second graders do an encore presentation of The Iditarod Song. Then the banquet is over.

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