Despite rain, Nome celebrates Independence Day
By Megan Gannon and Peter Loewi
Nomeites ignored the spitting rain and gray skies to celebrate the Fourth of July on Monday.
Independence Day kicked off with the 46th running of the Anvil Mountain Run. Fifteen participants aged 15 to 55 shot out from Nome City Hall at 8 a.m., heading out on the Nome-Teller Highway, clearing four checkpoints, a dense fog up at Anvil Mountain and getting back to town whichever way each runner thought was fastest.
Leo Rasmussen, founder of the race, was waiting for the finishers in his truck, which marked the finish line. Tobin Hobbs won the race in one hour and twenty minutes. Crystal Toolie, who at the start of the race admitted to have gotten lost in previous races, was the fastest female in one hour and forty two minutes. All participants made it back, an accomplishment in itself, and most before the rain started to fall.
At 11a.m., flag-bearers from the local VFW lead the annual parade down Front Street.
The Fourth of July festivities are long standing traditions in Nome. During a search through the archives, Nugget staff found reports of street games and free ice cream at the fire hall from as early as the 1950s. But some features of this year’s celebration could have only happened in 2022. One man walked in the parade with a Ukrainian flag in support of Ukrainians still fighting Russia’s invasion. Another group of mostly women held banners taking a stance against the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Graphite One, the company exploring a possible graphite mine in the Kigluaik Mountains, drove a drill down Front Street. A man from a group called Second Chance Modifications drove a unique standup mobility device with tank treads. Q Trucking drove a truckload of Girl Scouts and the Ambulance and Fire Department trucks and engines brought up the rear.
After the parade, the crowd gathered in front of City Hall and members of two Girl Scout troops led the Pledge of Allegiance in both Inupiaq and English. Jackie Reader sang the National Anthem and the Alaska Flag Song. The Nome-St. Lawrence Island Dance Group performed.
Lew Tobin presented the Rotary Club’s Citizen of the Year award to Josie Tatauq Bourdon, a lifelong Nome resident and longtime teacher. Bourdon was out of town and could not accept her plaque in person. Tobin described her as a “genuinely wonderful person who has always helped those in need,” and he especially commended her work in revitalizing Inupiaq language and culture in the region.
After Pastor Dan Ward gave an invocation, Mayor John Handeland took the mic to emcee the annual street games.
Kids and adults alike competed for dollar coins in foot races, bike races, three-legged races and egg races. A large group of kids didn’t mind getting barefoot and running across the wet pavement for the shoe scramble. Many of the children’s categories were hotly contested, breaking into heats, while some of the others had only one contestant, who spent the whole twenty yards celebrating. Despite the rain, the flour used to mark the yard lines, and the splattered eggs, there were very few slips, even in the stilt category.
The last competition was for those who had burned all their calories running and riding, the pie eating contest! Twelve people competed in several groups to eat the top, filling, and sides of a pie without using their hands. Vanessa Tahbone let out a roar of victory upon winning her group. Connor Aningayou, 13, was a bit calmer, perhaps because it was his second year winning. Others ended up with more pie on their faces than in their bellies.
As the competition cooled and the rain stopped, the crowd then walked up Bering Street to the Fire Hall and waited with anticipation for the garage doors to open so that all could get a free ice cream cone. The Nome Volunteer Fire Department serves 50 to 55 gallons of ice cream each year. They prefer Blue Ribbon ice cream, because “it’s good ice cream and if you wash the containers out, they make good berry buckets,” said one volunteer.