For more than 115 years, the town of Nome has held an annual Fourth of July parade and games to celebrate the nation’s birthday. In early days, crowds packed an American-flag lined Front Street to admire the horse-drawn floats and listen as the town’s brass band played patriotic songs. When soldiers were stationed at Fort Davis, they joined in the celebration too, marching down Front Street in military precision.
Street games for kids and adults were a big part of the festivities, going all the way back to 1900, when residents illustrated prowess in the High Kick and other Alaska Native feats of strength and agility. Other favorites included the pole vault and boat races.
Today’s competitors vie for $1, $2, and $3 prizes sponsored by the Nome City Council. Gunny sack races, shoe scramble and both foot and bicycle races are part of each year’s event. Some races have categories for all ages – from the 2-and-younger up to the 61-and-up “Boys” and “Girls” divisions. Wheelbarrow races, stilt races, and the 3-legged race continue the fun, and are both challenging and highly entertaining.
After working up an appetite with all the races, 24 lucky participants compete in the pie eating contest, coming away with berry-stained teeth and a possible stomach ache too. Those folks are advised to sit out one of the final events of the day: the “East Enders vs. West Enders” tug of war competition. It seems like the entire community has a stake in the outcome, seeing which side gets pulled across Steadman Street first. There are no hard feelings, though, regardless of who wins, because the day’s excitement is still not over. The crowd heads over to Anvil City Square for a traditional blanket toss event, and then to the Fire Hall, where there’s free ice cream for everyone.
If you’re in Nome on the 4th, be sure to take in this small-town event that ensures big-time fun. (And don’t miss the Anvil Mountain Run starting at 8 am, if you’re looking for a little activity before the parade starts at 10 am).