Visitors to Nome often ask where they can purchase unique, locally-made items. In fact, the region is known for high quality craftsmanship from local artists who work in a wide variety of mediums, many with natural materials. While you can find items in a few gift shops around town throughout the year, the mother lode can be discovered at the Iditarod Arts and Crafts Fair during Iditarod Week each March. Smaller arts and crafts fairs are sponsored by different groups at other times of year.
If you want unique, authentic items at a great price, save your money for one of these shows. This is one of the only places in the world where you can come back home with a scarf made of hand-spun qiviut (muskox fibres), and sealskin or sea otter hats – so take advantage of the local flavor and opportunity for truly one-of-a-kind purchases.
Iditarod Arts and Crafts Fair – Iditarod Week (Mid-March – starts around 10 days after the race begins)
For six days each March, thirty vendors from Nome and the surrounding villages fill Old St. Joe Hall with wares ranging from Native ivory, whalebone and antler carvings to qiviut clothing, beadwork, crochet and more contemporary mixed-media art. The beauty of this mega-event is that you won’t find better pricing anywhere else, and you often get a chance to talk with the artists. Your purchase supports the local economy directly, and strengthens some nearly-lost traditions in Native arts. The setting can’t be beat, either: Old St. Joe’s is Nome’s oldest remaining structure, so it’s a craft show/history tour all in one. The Arts and Crafts Fair runs concurrently with the Annual Iditarod Fine Arts Show, also held at Old St. Joe’s. The front of the hall is filled with local artwork – paintings, photographs and 3D art – often inspired by the landscape and culture of this dramatic Bering Sea region.
Salmon Berry Craft Fair – End of July
Held at Nome Elementary School (1057 E 5th Ave), the Salmon Berry Jam is Nome’s kick-up-your-heels event of the summer. In addition to music jams and dances, you can browse around 20 vendor tables set up in the school. You’ll find a variety of hand-made items, and food to keep you fueled up for more picking and grinning.
Blueberry Festival – Late August/early September
Organized by Bering Tea and Bearing Song, this one-day festival celebrates the perfectly tart and deeply flavorful tundra blueberry (like no commercial berry you’ve ever tasted). More than two dozen vendors sell watercolor paintings, prints, notecards, jewelry and jams and jellies, many inspired by local berries. Weather permitting, the festival is in Anvil City Square. Otherwise, you can find artists inside Bering Tea and Bearing Song.
Nome Preschool Holiday Bazaar – Saturday after Thanksgiving
If you’re in Nome for Thanksgiving, be sure to check out the Nome Preschool Holiday Bazaar for locally-made arts and crafts (and some delicious baked goods, too). Find something for yourself or those on your holiday list: garments made of fabric, fur and skins, handmade jewelry, beading, woodworking and more. Usually held at the Nome Mini Convention Center (409 River Street) or the Nome Elementary School (1057 E 5th Ave).