Offbeat SF Iditarod returns following hiatus 

Somewhere in Alaska today, hundreds of sled dogs are trudging through a 1,100-mile race through the snowy tundra. But in sunny San Francisco on Saturday, some of the dog ears wagging were made of synthetic fabric.

Clowns, doctors, Santas and a 4-year-old fried chicken were among the contestants for the Urban Iditarod, which began outside AT&T Park and ended, well, whenever the last participant went home.

Following the Denim Dogs, Southern Dogs, Pound Puppies and Falkor — pretty much a flying dog — was a group of dedicated poop-scoopers. Armed with dustpans, brooms and other cleaning devices, these men pledged to keep the racecourse litter-free.

The secret to finding a perfect shopping cart to carry your beer along the course is to find one with large wheels where you can place your feet for brakes, and to find one without a locking mechanism, according to Tyler Dominguez, 31, who came from San Luis Obispo to participate with his friends.

“You really have to go outside San Francisco to find one,” he said. “Of course, we return them after we’re done.”

This was the first time since 2006 the 17-year-old race has been held publicly. A man with a bullhorn who seemed to herd the 100 or so race participants — who was adamant about only giving his first name, Eric — said the race had to take a break after growing too large.

“We had police escorting about 700 people through The City in 2006,” he said. “They were really nice about it, but they basically told us we were going to have to pay for a group that size.”

A number of spontaneous events have run into trouble in previous years. A pillow fight in Justin Herman Plaza in February cost The City $35,000 in cleanup costs and permitting issues have plagued festivals. Michael Whelpley, a 30-year-old San Francisco resident who was part of a troupe of mimes Saturday, broke his silence to explain why he painted his face white to jog along The Embarcadero with his friends.

“It’s just one of those super random and fun things to do in San Francisco,” Whelpley said. “It’s very loosely run. We clean up after ourselves, and there’s no one trying to convince us to give up our money.”

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