Nome celebrates Independence Day
A chilly 45°F greeted Nomeites on the morning of July Fourth, with grey skies and a breeze. Despite the inhospitable temperatures, hundreds turned out to celebrate the Nation’s 241st birthday. Around 10 a.m. the parade participants meet at the parking lots next to Subway and the Golden Goose lot to prepare their floats and adorn trucks and trailers in the colors of Red, White and Blue.
Leading the parade, which promptly began at 11 a.m. was the Nome Police Department escort, followed by VFW members carrying the colors.
A big component of the parade were as usual summer reading program kids with the Kegoayah Kozga Library, the Nome Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Departments, a float with NPD officer offspring and spouses as well as a few oldtimer cars. Also walking were the St. Lawrence Island dancers and drummers, and a float and marchers of Sitnasuak Native Corporation shareholders asking in carried signs for “Accountability”, “Finish the 2017 Election” and
“Vote your own proxy.”
The parade also included the Alaska DOT’s Nome Airport aircraft rescue and firefighting truck and a few trucks from local businesses. Absent was the usual large contingent of GPAA miners that used to come to Cripple Creek and recreationally mine there.
After the parade, Nome City Clerk Bryant Hammond emceed the ceremony in front of City Hall on Front Street. Sarah Hofstetter and Tamara Van Diest sang the National Anthem, Jackie Reader performed the Alaska Flag Song and Pastor Dan Ward said the opening prayer. When Mayor Richard Beneville took to the podium, the crowd, gathered in a semi-circle on Front Street, went wild and chimed in when Beneville excitedly proclaimed, “Happy Birthday America!” He said that people from Brazil – an expedition trying to sail on northwards from Nome – and Germany — a film team with a TV channel— were here to celebrate with us. Beneville recalled the moment when Iditarod musher Martin Buser took the oath to become American under the Iditarod Arch and added, “Never take your citizenship for granted, nor the men and women who defend this nation and this town.”
The Rotary Club then handed out their award for the Nome Citizen of the Year. Tim Motis presented the award and said that this year, it would be two awards given out to the husband and wife team of Dr. Karen O’Neill and Kevin Ahl. Dr. O’Neill was recognized for her many years of medical service to Nome and the region. Ahl, a pilot for Bering Air, was recognized for his many years of flying medivacs out of Nome.
And then the games began. Master of Ceremonies this year was John Handeland, instead of Leo Rasmussen. The games included tricycle, bicycle, wheelchair, stroller, foot and wheelbarrow races, as well as stilt races, three-legged race and gunny sack races. The games ended with the Herbie Locke Memorial Pie Eating contest and the Eskimo High Kick competition.
With everyone having worked up an appetite, the crowd migrated to the Fire Hall, where the Nome Fire Department ended the day’s celebration with a free ice cream social.