The Men of ’73


Rod Perry and leader, Fat Albert, 1973

In March of 1973, filmmaker, author, and Iditarod historian Rod Perry ran his dogteam in the very first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. Now Rod is seeking to preserve the story of that very first race in a documentary film based on the inaugural running.

The First Iditarod: The Amazing Dogs and Their Mushers will be a collection of interviews with the men who ran the first Iditarod in 1973, sharing their memories of the first running of The Last Great Race.


Rod Perry today

Adventure has been a way of life for Rod Perry. Now seventy-four, an age when most are slowing way down if not sitting still, Rod has caught another gear and is speeding up. Perry grew up in Oceanside, Oregon, with the surf pounding out his front door and thousand-year-old forests in back, providing an idyllic setting for an outdoors-crazy kid like Rod to develop. He went to Oregon State University, and in 1967, with a degree in wildlife management in his pocket, Rod headed for Alaska. “Where else could I have gone for my kind of self-expression?”  reflects Perry. “Had I stayed out in America (as he calls the contiguous states) my life would have been dull as dishwater, but God didn’t wire me that way.”

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-11-46-06-pmRod conceived, wrote, and filmed the iconic Alaska motion picture classic, Sourdough, starring his late father, Gil Perry. With the son roiling film, dad played an aged trapper and prospector attempting to live out a disappearing lifestyle amidst a dying old-time Alaska. Perhaps no other motion picture that toured the world’s theaters ever started with less, but since 1977 Sourdough has been seen by more theater goers, TV audiences, and home video watchers than any film ever made in Alaska.


Rod Perry, 1973 Iditarod

And now Rod seeks to tell the story of the first Iditarod. From the inaugural running in 1973 the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has grown to become Alaska’s most world-famous annual event. Although that trailblazing run to Nome would go down as the greatest Iditarod adventure of all time, the full story has never been told on film. Because there was so much skepticism that the 1973 event could even be brought off, there was very little media coverage, and once many of the racers returned to their remote villages, most of the stories never saw print, much less the screen. But down through the decades, the hints and whispers that have seeped out from the backwoodsmen who ran it have clothed that incredible odyssey with an alluring aura of untold mystery dangling just beyond reach. Rod notes, “That first race was so one-of-a-kind, there’s the 1973 Iditarod, and then there are the other forty-four. I’ve chuckled that it was about as foreign-sounding and distant from today’s race as if it was the tale of Jason and the Argonauts’ voyage in quest of the Golden Fleece.”


Rod’s video for Kickstarter

Information about the fundraising effort for this documentary film can be found on, and at the film’s website, A film of this caliber needs funding and support from those who recognize the importance of preserving this unique sled dog history. Those who heed Rod Perry’s call to jump on his sled runners and ride along on this great filming adventure are in for a wild, educational ride into Iditarod’s untold past!

About Helen Hegener

Author and publisher, Northern Light Media and Alaskan History Magazine.
This entry was posted in News & Information, Sled Dog History, Sled Dog Races and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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