The two leaders in the marathon sled dog race across Alaska stopped just long enough in this tiny Indian village to have a fancy, $5,000, seven-course gourmet meal flown in by an Anchorage hotel before steering the race up the Yukon River Saturday.

"I'm sure it's the last good meal I'm going to get between here and Nome," said Rick Swenson, the first musher, or sled dog driver, to reach the Yukon River.The 1,168-mile Anchorage-to-Nome Iditarod Sled Dog Race turns north up the frozen Yukon at Anvik, 653 miles from the start.

One of the stranger traditions connected with the Iditarod race, now in its 17th year, is the feast given to the first musher to arrive at the Yukon River.

This year, two tired, dirty, hungry mushers were waited upon by tuxedo-clad waiters because both mushers arrived in Anvik almost together.

Martin Buser drove his dog team into Anvik right behind Swenson.

The spectacle of such an extraordinary feast out in the Alaska bush in the middle of this miserable race is so odd and so spectacular that the entire Anvik population of 75 turned out to watch.

Swenson and Buser reached Anvik about 11 p.m. AST Friday and were back out on their sleds moving onto the Yukon River as Friday turned into Saturday.

Both mushers said they spent twice as long at the checkpoint thanks to the feast, but neither seemed concerned about losing their slim lead over Susan Butcher, Dee Dee Jonrowe and Joe Runyan.

Swenson and Buser were just wiping their faces with linen napkins when Butcher and Jonrowe pulled in.