Just before 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Bethel musher Pete Kaiser slid under the burled arch in Nome, pumping his arms overhead in victory as he claimed his first Iditarod championship and became the first person from Bethel and the first musher of Yup’ik heritage to win the race.
Fans in Kaiser’s hometown of Bethel were running on a proud, exhausted thrill Wednesday after staying up to watch the historic win.
Debra Samson: I was just listening to the news, I was holding my breath and I was telling myself, ‘Why do I want to cry? I’m so excited!’
Evon Waska: Me and my wife stayed up and watched him finish, and there was tears of joy.
Tommy Bayayok: It was an awesome sight to see.
Tootsie Guinn: Gosh, I’m so proud of him!
Nelson Alexie: It’s about time somebody wins from Kuskokwim.
Samson: And for him to be from Bethel, to be local, to be Yup’ik.
Waska: [Yugtun] We Yupiit are very proud.
Bayayok: Somebody in our town, representing Bethel, the Kuskokwim, Southwest Alaska just…
Guinn: Just a hometown boy and…
Samson: He represents what good we can accomplish.
Bayayok: Hopefully it’ll inspire other kids to look into joining mushing.
Waska: [Yugtun] This finish is for all the young people. You can do this too. You can achieve your goal just like Pete.
Samson: We should just do a parade!
Bayayok: Wonderful feeling knowing that someone that you know, someone from your hometown is the best musher in the world.
Those were Pete Kaiser fans Debra Samson, Evon Waska, Tootsie Guinn, Nelson Alexie, and Tommy Bayayok in Kaiser’s hometown of Bethel.