An Iditarod checkpoint offers a warm welcome [by Natalie Baumgartner] IN 1974, MCGRATH RESIDENT BABE ANDERSON WAS THE FIRST MUSHER FROM THE AREA TO ENTER THE IDITAROD TRAIL SLED DOG RACE. Over the years, 16 others from McGrath and surrounding villages followed in his footsteps. Notable competitors include second-place  Finisher Eep Anderson and third-place finisher Ernie Baumgartner, as well as many others placing in the top 10. During the Iditarod’s early years, most everyone in town participated in some way. Local families hosted racers and their teams as they arrived in McGrath, 311 miles into the race, where the hospitality and strategic location along the trail made the stop a favorite for many to take their mandatory 24-hour layover. Local competitors helped fuel the excitement and community support in the early years, and normal day-to-day activity halted. Everyone in town attended large fundraisers for racers. Non-stop entertainment while the…