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Tell Us Your Favorite Family Films
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Young kids will love Balto, the animated tale of a plucky canine hero from Nome, Alaska. Since Balto is half-dog and half-wolf, he can't earn a place on any of the local sled teams -- the human mushers don't quite trust the wildness in him, even though he's quick on his feet. When a deadly diptheria epidemic hits their isolated town, and threatens to take the life of the little girl who owns the female dog that Balto loves, the town chooses the fastest dogs and sends them on a journey for help. Because of his unique half-breed qualities, Balto is the only one who survives the trek from Anchorage to Nome, returning with the antitoxin that saves hundreds of lives. Based on a true story about a sled dog that became a national hero, the film thrilled us in the chase scenes and touched our hearts with its message about the value of being different.
Balto's real life chase through the wilderness is re-enacted annually in one of the world's most unique sporting events, an 1150 mile sled dog race called the Iditarod. Given that the race course runs through Alaska's wilderness, there is no better way to track the progress of these incredibly athletic dogs, and their mushers than on the Internet. We are tracking this year's race by following specific dog teams during the two week race that starts on March 1, reading updates online from dog "bloggers" who report in from the trail, and watching video footage from the checkpoints. There are over 95 mushers registered this year, and 1500 dogs. By watching pre-race videos online we learned that while some mushers achieve a certain level of fame (especially those who have won more than once), there are dynasties of dogs who are renowned for their speed and competitiveness. A lucky musher with a sled-dog who loves to run like Balto might find him or herself riding "the magic carpet ride", a phrase that reminded our kids of a basketball player talking about being "in the zone".
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Tracking the Iditarod on the Internet
Time Allotment: one hour
Age Recommendation: all ages
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