The Iditarod officially ended March 20 when Mary Helwig blew out the lantern hanging on the burled arch in Nome. The position of last is one of great honor. The musher who finishes the race last is awarded a special red lantern and is allowed to blow out the Widow’s Lantern. The lantern was lit on the first day of the race and burns until every team on the trail reaches Nome. Mary was the 71st person to cross under the arches. She was another musher who lost her home, and almost everything she owned, in the devastating fire that took out so much in Willow last summer. Congratulations, Mary, and bless you for your fortitude and perseverance.
“During the days of Alaska sled dog freighting and mail carrying, dog drivers relied on a series of roadhouses between their village destinations. Since these mushers ventured out in most all kinds of weather, for safety reasons they found the idea that pilots rely on, known today as the flight plan. Word was relayed ahead that a musher and team were on the trail, and a kerosene lamp was lit and hung outside the roadhouse. It not only helped the dog driver find his destination at night, but more importantly, it signified that a team or teams were somewhere out on the trail. The lamp was not extinguished until the musher safely reached his destination.” Iditarod.com