Jessie Royer

Jessie Royer

Age: 38

Darby, Montana

Veteran

Jessie Royer’s taste buds are getting a treat.

The Fairbanks musher and her 14 dogs were the first team to arrive at the Ruby checkpoint, the halfway point of this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Royer and her team arrived at 6:37 a.m. Friday into Ruby, which is 495 miles into the race, which totals 975 miles this year.

This is Royer’s 18th entry in the race from Anchorage to Nome. The best finished for the Idaho-born and Montana-raised musher was third place last year in a total effort of 9 days, 18 hours, 34 minutes and 5 seconds.

The 48th edition of the Iditarod began March 7 with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage. The race officially started from Willow on Sunday, and it finishes on Front Street in Nome.

Being the first musher into Ruby earned Royer The Lakefront Anchorage First Musher to the Yukon Award. The award features a five-course meal prepared by Roberto Sidro, executive chef of The Lakefront Anchorage hotel.

The award will be re-presented to Royer at a later date at the Iditarod awards banquet.

The banquet was scheduled for March 22 in Nome but postponed Thursday by the race committee because of concerns about the novel coronavirus. The committee also postponed the Meet the Mushers event, which was scheduled for March 21 in Nome.

When Royer does get to partake of the meal that comes with the First Musher to the Yukon prize, she will be treated to:

• Lobster bisque served with rosemary crostini.

• Blackened spot prawns, roasted pear and aged gorgonzola tossed in an arugula salad with sherry vinaigrette.

• Seared, marinated duck breast wrapped in bacon and drizzled with orange glaze served on a bed of lightly sautéed bok chop.

• Espresso-rubbed, bone-in, ribeye steak with bourbon sauce, seared and flambeed, paired with roasted, mashed celery root and sautéed baby carrots.

• Homemade wild berry cheesecake garnished with chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Royer also receives an “After Dinner Mint” of $3,500 in neatly stacked one-dollar bills along with a bottle of Dom Perignon.

Sidro and Heather Jarvis, The Lakefront Anchorage food and beverage director, will the serve “mint” to Royer on a commemorative Alaska gold pan.

Greg Beltz, The Lakefront Anchorage general manager, said in an Iditarod news release the hotel has presented the award for 34 years to support “all the great athletes who seek to win the ‘race within the race’ and make it to the Yukon (River) first.’”

Royer, on Friday, also was the first musher to depart Ruby. She departed at 11:35 a.m. with 13 dogs after dropping one at the checkpoint.

Eureka’s Brent Sass was second into Ruby and second out of the checkpoint.

The three-time Yukon Quest International winner came into Ruby at 7:50 a.m., with 13 dogs and left at 12:50 p.m., with the same number of dogs.

The Yukon Quest runs 1,000 miles each February between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon.

Joan Leifseth Ulsom, of Rana, Norway, was third out of Ruby at 12:57 p.m. Friday. Ulsom had 13 dogs in harness after he left Ruby and when he arrived there at 8:45 a.m. Friday.

Fifty-three mushers remained in the race, which started with 57.

Sled fire

Royer’s sled caught fire during a stop en route to Ruby.

In a video from KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage, Royer said she had her cooker going and was going to add more of a heating liquid to it .

“Apparently the bottle of heat caught on fire on the inside and I didn’t know about it,’’ Royer said on the video. “So I put the bottle of heat in my trash bag (on her sled) because I didn’t know it (was on fire in the inside).”

Among the items burned were a bag of dog booties and a rope.

Royer noticed the sled was on fire after she returned to it from doing chores.

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.