Nome celebrates Midnight Sun Festival
Nome’s Midnight Sun Festival is over and from all appearances has been a big success. There was lots of fun, plenty of good food and some great music.
Friday at 7 p.m. Eskimo dancing on the Golden Goose parking lot drew a big crowd. The Nome St. Lawrence Island Dancers and the King Island Dancers kept alive the tradition, which they’ve nurtured since the beginning. Kids ran and played, elders got front row seats, and the weather cooperated to make it a wonderful evening.
Thursday and Friday, the Nome Lions Club barbecue was set up on Front Street with a large amount of chicken and a large amount of barbecue sauce. The chicken was well done and tasted great.
On Saturday morning at 9 a.m. the Gold Dust Run saw about fifty lithe speedsters line up next to the waves on East Beach. The runners were to go to the orange snow-cat and back, a distance of 3.1 miles, which is just slightly less than 5,000 meters. The runners stuck to the best footing right at the edge of the surf so many were sloshing through the waves part of the time. First back from the turnaround was Caleb Allen, a student at Fort Lewis College in Colorado. He’s from Bozeman Montana. He said it was fun.
The first woman across the line was Callie Cooper of Eugene, Oregon, America’s running capital. She specializes in ultra-marathons and has run one as long as 100 kilometers, which is 62 miles. “I’m from Florida and I’ve run beach runs there. But the beach is a half-mile wide there, hard packed and no rock. So this is probably the hardest 5 K I’ve ever done in terms of footing. It’s crazy, I was running thru the waves. My fastest 5K is 16:29. And I ran like 22 today,” Cooper said.
The Midnight Sun Parade went underway at 11 a.m.
Almost exactly at high noon trouble was brewing in downtown Nome. It was the lawmen in black hats against the bad guys in black hats. The bad guys, who really looked like bad guys, were heavily armed and walking slowly down Front St., headed for the Wells Fargo Bank. They passed the Nome Nugget office in peace because they’d heard you never pick a fight with anybody who buys ink by the barrel. A big crowd of citizens had assembled in front of the bank and Mayor Richard Beneville in top hat and tails was whipping them into a frenzy about the crime about to strike their fair city. The closer the bad guys got the badder they looked. “They look like they might be gold miners,” said the mayor.
When the gang arrived at the bank, the leader, who was especially scary looking, announced he had an appointment with a banker.
The mayor, while frantically demanding to know where Wyatt Earp was, apparently unaware that Wyatt was a saloon keeper in Nome and not a lawman, told the bad guys to head on into the bank. When they emerged they were holding large white bags of what was obviously money. Through all this, Paul the Undertaker, who in real life works at Nome’s cemetery, was walking around measuring people for coffins. Once the shooting started, it was over quick. Only bad guys got shot, which suggests this was sort of a pro wrestling bank robbery, where the antagonists sit down and decide how things are going to go ahead of time. Not content to see them die just once, the mayor ordered the dead hombres to their feet and they were shot once again.
This gunfight was a lot of fun to watch. If you are interested in vintage guns there were some nice ones, particularly cavalry pistols. There were some great get-ups with the actors looking authentic and in-character. If Nome doesn’t take steps to apprehend and incarcerate these dangerous criminals, the odds are good that this same bank robbery will happen next year on the same day.
On Saturday at 2 p.m. East Beach was the place to be. Charlie Lean was grilling hot dogs, an old army tent was set up on the sand, and a pile of pallets was about to be set alight. It was time for the Polar Bear Swim. This event is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Nome and sends healthy lovers of nature into the Bering Sea for a quick dip. About one hundred lined up to savor the thrill of a really cold swim and when Danielle Slingsby sent them off, they dashed down the beach and into the frothy sea. Most turned around and came right back out. There were a few dogs and none of them appeared to be interested in diving into the surf. A few people swam out beyond the breakers and stayed out there enjoying the cold salt water. The bright sunshine helped to warm everybody up.
On Sunday, Nome’s peculiar Midnight Sun festivities continued.
The famous raft race puts in just above the Banner Creek Bridge and rides the Nome River down to Dexter. As the water is snow melt it’s cold. The river was high and that was good. Fewer rafts would be running aground on shoals.
The mood at the start was upbeat and fun. This was not some clenched-jaw event with a year’s salary on the line. Some were there to win and others defined winning in more subtle ways. The raft SS Pleasure Rose featured a grill for warmth and cooking. Comfort for the crew was obviously important to them. A Mt. Edgecumbe float was crewed by students who were not so warmly dressed as the older rafters. Their raft barely floated them but they were fast. The Raftafarians arrived on a four-wheeler pulling their fast looking raft. Probably a dozen rafts started and by the time they drifted to the Dexter pull-out the Green Machine, crewed by members of the Green family, was the winner.