ANCHORAGE -

Downtown Anchorage was packed with people an hour before the ceremonial start of the race was about to begin. While the event is followed by locals, visitors made up much of the crowd.

James and Valerie Tanzilli were visiting from Avon Lake, Ohio. It was their first Iditarod. The couple said they've been wanting to see the race start since visiting one summer a few years back.

James said they visited Susan Butcher's kennel and met the dog team.

"We became intrigued and fell in love a little bit I think we wanted to come up here to see the auroras and also see the start of the Iditarod," he said.

Getting a good view wasn't easy. Marissa Robinson was in Anchorage from the lower 48. She said she didn't get to downtown early enough to get a good street spot. That's why she and her friend watched from a parking garage.

On the start of the Iditarod, the emblem of city life became a great spectator's spot. While they're trying to get a glimpse, the spectators have elbow room, even if they do have to move between the walls and cars parked along the outside walls.

Larry Donoso traveled to Anchorage before for the start. He carried a long lens for his camera to get shots of dog teams as they raced past.

"It's good because you can see the whole sled team. It's a good overall view,” Donoso said. “Down on the strip is good for close ups.”

The rugged race is what Donoso said got him up to Alaska, but it's the warm community that keeps him coming back.