by: Katie Writer – KTNA
Saturday’s event began with the Wilderness Women Competition. The first event simulates
hauling buckets of water to a dry cabin. Each contestant carries two 5 gallon buckets, weighing almost 80 pounds down Main Street in heats of 5 ladies at a time. Spectators and participants come from all around the country.
Todd Basilone, who has officiated the event for over 20 years, speaks about the challenges the ladies face in the water bucket race.
“That first event is really tough, the water is really hard, people realize at the end when you cross the finish line how tired the girls are. The bunny boots are cumbersome, and the snow slows them down a lot today.”
Main Street was lined with a cheering crowd, including legendary Iditarod Champion, Jeff King.
While there was a lot of contestants from out of state in the Wilderness Women’s Contest, it seems that the Alaskan gals had a competitive edge that even Jeff King noticed.
“I was there for that and there were several of those ladies I yelled out as they went by if they
were looking for a job to look me up…because it looked like they had the right stuff to be a dog handler.”
Once the field has been narrowed down to the five finalist from the bucket race, the final contestants move on to making a sandwich for a bachelor, sawing wood with a handsaw, loading the wood into the snow machine, and then driving it around the course.
All the while, the ladies get to check out the bachelors that are helping out with the race. One of the bachelors is James Jones who doesn’t wait till evening time to put on his formal wear. He is standing in the snow, wearing a suit with his snow boots…Talkeetna Style.
“This is my second year, a lot of fun…I look forward to getting up on stage in front of 200 plus women, that is pretty exciting..”
The bonfire next to the Fairview Inn is a gathering place for all, including former bachelors like Christian Whitecar.
“I love Talkeetna and I love the event and I will always be out here irregardless of being married, yes!”
For some, the real excitement begins at the Bachelor Ball, which starts with the crowning of this years Wilderness Women Champion, Corinne Marzullo. Then comes the bachelors, one by one, who strut their stuff with their chosen theme song. One bachelor caught the ladies attention by stroking an adorable puppy on stage. Others draw from their individual skill sets ranging from playing a saxophone, stripping off clothes, and singing.
Some of the repeat local bachelors like Trapper Tim, Tommy Potter, Shawn Stanley, Elias Holt and Rodney Ennis drew bids up to the $700 range.
Just when the auctioneers thought that a $3,800 bid would top the night with bachelor John Wagley, who had buffed out his ‘package’ with a stay for two at the Mountain House, emcee Marne Gunderson began introducing a bachelor that she titled point blank, a badass.
Out came Iditarod Champion, Jeff King, wearing his mushers snowsuit and was he ever hot…
the ladies went berserk.
The four-time Iditarod champion sold for a whopping $4,600. In an interview with Jeff a few days after the event, he talked about why he drove down from Denali to be part of the fundraiser.
“You know I am kind of a split personality, I go back from being a showboat to wanting to hide out in the woods for months at a time and not talk to anyone. In light of the national exposure of sexual assault and class separation of men and women, pay scales. Knowing that this was a fundraiser for organizations helping women in crisis, it seemed like an appropriate cause as well as fun.”
Even though Jeff King has been in the spot light as an Iditarod Champion musher, something was different about getting up on stage in a crowded room full of screaming women. He decided to pick the ‘Rocky Theme song’ for his song, and it really helped him pump up the crowd.
Well I can tell you I played the Rocky Theme song several times on the ride home from Talkeetna the other night with a smile on my face just shaking my head, talking to Zig, my lead dog saying ’Oh my God girl, what have we done’. It was very fun and who knows, maybe I’ll be brave enough to do it again.”
The Talkeetna Bachelor Society raised $24,338. Half of that money will go to the Talkeetna Bachelor Society Women and Children Crisis Fund. The other half will be distributed to local schools and community programs.