Nome is all about community. It’s a small and friendly town, where even from the earliest days, residents planned sporting challenges, celebrations and theatre productions. Today there’s something happening nearly every month, whether it’s a film festival, a run up Anvil Mountain, a quick summertime plunge in the Bering Sea, or a festive and fun celebration of Native traditions. We’ve listed some of the main events and timeframes, but your best bet is to check with the Nome Visitors Center before your trip to determine what’s happening during your visit.
Fairs & Festivals
Nome residents have celebrated the Fourth of July since before the town was even incorporated. A festive parade and range of games is always on the agenda, from the Eskimo high kick, to gunny sack and bicycle races. And in Nome, the fun isn’t just for kids. There are race categories for all ages!
In late November each year, hundreds of Nome community members gather to celebrate the diverse Native cultures of the Bering Strait region. Kaatiluta, which means “all of us, together,” honors the sharing traditions that helped people survive for generations in the extreme conditions of the Arctic.
Running the Gold Dust Dash in Nome offers a beautiful view along the 5K race course up and back along the shoreline of the Bering Sea. A gold nugget is on the line for first place finishers, so most runners enjoy the view at top speed. The Gold Dust Dash is the first of many events celebrating summer solstice in Nome.
Miners took a lot of gold out of Dexter Creek, just northeast of Nome, and the Wyatt Earp Dexter Challenge takes participants through this backcountry on the Dexter Bypass Road. Walkers, runners and bikers complete different course lengths, but all cover some of this ridge-lined territory on the backside of Anvil Mountain.
The 200-mile Nome-Golovin Race is held on the second Saturday in March. Racers begin and end in Nome after following 100 miles of the Iditarod trail down the coast to Golovin and back. It takes just a few hours, so you can catch both the start and finish – and maybe even catch the Award Ceremonies, held a few days later.
“You too can clean up your act,” promise sponsors of Nome’s wacky Labor Day Bathtub Race. Whether a participant or a bystander, be prepared to get splashed as tubs full of water, bubbles – and a bather – are raced 100 yards down Front Street. For Nome, this is good, clean fun!
Billed as the “World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmachine Race,” the Iron Dog course totals 2,274 long winter miles. Beginning at Big Lake (north of Anchorage), the race course leads to Nome, and then ends in Fairbanks. Racers and the Nome community enjoy a festive banquet halfway through the race.
Robbers with guns drawn stride down Nome’s Front Street each solstice with one goal: to rob the bank and get away with bags of loot. The plan is somehow always foiled, but that doesn’t matter. Those robbers keep trying, year after year! Watch for the bad guys to come calling at high noon just after the Midnight Sun parade.
There’s no place like Nome at solstice time. The community gathers for a celebration like no other: the Midnight Sun Festival. Spirits are high, as locals take advantage of more than 21 hours of direct sunlight. Events include a parade down Front Street, a mock bank robbery, and an icy plunge in the Bering Sea.
The Nome Community Thanksgiving Dinner, made possible by donations and lots of volunteer help, is open to all community members and visitors. Stop by for a meal, pitch in to help with the turkey, and enjoy the company of friendly Nome-ites, who warm up even the coldest of November days.
Experience Nome’s collective creative spirit at the Nome Arts Council Open Mic events, held in mid-November and in March during Iditarod Week. They are always well-attended, so arrive early to enjoy some of Nome’s best music, dance, poetry and story-tellers.
Come on out to watch some community softball, a passion for many residents. Nome usually fields nearly a dozen teams, offering pretty competitive softball for a small town on the far reaches of Alaska. With games throughout the summer and a Midnight Sun Festival tournament, the ball is in play several days a week, rain or shine.
Plunging into the Bering Sea’s frigid waters takes a lot of nerve, but each year dozens of folks jump in with gusto as part of the Nome Rotary Club’s Polar Bear Swim. Many get out as fast as they went in, with gasps, smiles and a rush to the nearby bonfire. It’s all part of Nome’s wacky annual celebration of summer solstice.
In Nome you can find truly unique, hand-made items during local arts and crafts fairs. The largest of these takes place during Iditarod Week in mid-March. Take advantage of the local flavor and pick up a hand-spun qiviut (muskox fibres) garment, ivory carvings or a sealskin hat.
Each February a select group of hardy souls sets out from Knik Lake to test themselves against Alaska’s harsh winter elements. Their mission? To traverse the famed Iditarod trail, by mountain bike, ski, or on foot – with little to no trail support. Crazy? Maybe. Inspiring? Definitely.
Can your homemade raft survive a race down a five-mile stretch of the Nome River? How about when water balloons and squirt guns are in play between race participants and even spectators? The Nome River Raft Race, held each June as part of the Midnight Sun Festival, is one event where getting wet is not only part of the fun – it’s a requirement!
Tee off in the ice and snow of the frozen Bering Sea in this 6‑hole charity golf classic that includes a mandatory stop-off at a local bar after the first three holes. Parka, fur hat, and heavy boats are advisable for one of the most unique golf outings you’ll ever experience.
When you see berry pickers dotting the tundra around Nome, you know the Blueberry Festival is just around the corner. Don’t miss this one-day gathering that celebrates all-things blueberry: from music to arts and crafts, and so many blueberry-based food concoctions.