UNDER THE SEA— Mermaid Cussy Kauer and the Q Trucking crew went all out to decorate their float according to the theme of this year’s Midnight Sun parade: Under the Sea.

Nome celebrates Midnight Sun festivities

With the M/V Westerdam cruise ship dominating the horizon and the town on Friday, Nomeites took over town on Saturday to truly kick off the Midnight Sun Festival weekend. They raced, paraded, soaked up some of the longest day’s munificent sunshine, and floated to victory over the course of many events. With a festival history dating back to at least the 1960s, the day’s traditions are well etched in a historical schedule yet elicit excitement nonetheless from all.
The fleet-footed early birds began Saturday on East End beach running the 5k Gold Dush Dash in the sand and waves. Of the 35 competitors, Patrick Landback won the race in 22:20 minutes with his arms outstretched like Prefontaine as he crossed the finish line.

Under the Sea Parade
At 11 a.m. on Front Street, Nome Police Officer Chelsea Griffin, who came to Nome from Georgia by way of Bethel, led the Midnight Sun Parade themed “Under the Sea” in a patrol truck, lights flashing under an overcast sky. A nod to healthy living through subsistence was given as people dressed in a moose outfit, in a blueberry costume and as a water droplet walked the parade. The Nome-Beltz Class of 2004 had a float, as did Behavioral Health Services, Nome Pride, Miss Alaska Native Brotherhood, the Norton Sound Health Corporation’s CAMP, and an ornately theme-appropriately decorated float of Q Trucking, with matriarch Cussy Kauer donning a mermaid outfit and waiving regally to the crowd. They all putted down the road pouring candy into the streets; kids brought buckets and bags to gather sweets as if it were Halloween. The parade hooked down Bering Street and swung around back to Front Street in a loop.
The parade almost didn’t take place as the long-time organizer Bridie Green moved out of town and nobody seemed to carry on the task of putting Midnight Sun festivities together. After a plea from City Hall, Christine Piscoya stepped up and organized the parade with help from Faye Buffas, Janet Oquilluk and Daniel Buffas, the city and the Nome Visitor Center. As is tradition, floats were awarded cash prizes donated by the City of Nome and the winner was the Q Trucking Float, earning $150 for their efforts, second was the Pride Float, getting $100 and in third place came the Miss ANB Float, winning a $50 prize.

Bank robbery
After a brief respite in which neighbors and friends spent time catching up, the crowds slowly worked their way over to Wells Fargo bank, where grandstands were set up for the coming show.
Five ominous figures strutted down Front Street from the west, spitting copiously and letting out an occasional round from their guns. As they neared the crowd, it was plain they were dressed in antique Western American garb.
One man slightly ahead of the others, in a top hat and coat, warned, “People of Nome, stand back! These people have fire in their eyes and nothing in their soul!”
Richard Rowe, played by an actor so committed to method acting that he would not disclose his real name to the Nugget, was back in town to rob the bank (though hard sleuthing revealed the actor to be Ken Shapiro). Except this year there was no Wyatt Earp to stop him.
Instead, Rowe was brought to justice by legalese.  The town’s top-hatted mayor, played by Andrew James, who had warned of the robbers’ approach ranted to the crowd some sort of law imported from Illinois statutes to which Rowe collapsed and the speaker narrated, “He couldn’t handle the boring municipal language.”
When Rowe collapsed, the kids swarmed the criminal’s loot: more candy.

Polar Bear Swim
At East End beach, at 2:00 p.m., adults and kids tossed off their shirts and pants to dash into the sea, which looked to be about a 4 on the Beaufort scale with small waves and a noticeable breeze. It didn’t stop hordes from earning the Polar Plunge certificate, which required dunking one’s head in the chilly ocean. The certificates were handed out by the Nome Rotary Club, who were also dishing out reindeer dogs. Two Alaska State Troopers were there smiling with their thumbs looped into their vests. Nick Harvey stood happily by his wife, Michelle, who wore a tall and slightly translucent polar bear outfit that shook in the wind. Everyone gathered around the massive pyre, which reached nearly two stories high and was stoked with pallets and driftwood.

Nome River Raft Race
The following day, Sunday at 1 p.m. everyone was ready to get wet again at Mile 13 on Beam Road, where the Lions Club was putting on the annual River Raft Race in the Nome River. The race started just upriver from a big bridge and terminated down in Dexter. Ten teams splashed and shouted and guffawed their way onto the river when Mayor John Handeland started the race with a mini-cannon blast.
The two teams, “Da Boiz” and “Da Gurlz”, with similar raft designs and ambition, took the lead early and maintained it the whole race while enjoying the particularly warm, sunny day up in the mountains. There were eight other teams floating as well. Fans doused the rafters with water as they passed underneath the bridge. Some floats fell apart in spectacular fashion.
The crowd drove down to the beach at Dexter where Mayor Handeland manned the grill, cooking chicken and hot dogs. Pamela Cushman, who organized the event, seemed to be running around doing everything. Her husband Cole disclosed that he was recently elected president of the hosting Lions Club, as he enjoyed a cold one on the beach. Nomeites of all ages were there to soak up the perfect weather day, picnic, and watch the race finish.

Da Boiz, captained by Bubba McDaniel, and crewed by Taylor McDaniel, Klay Baker, Bobby Koezuna, and Bish Gallahorn, won the race in an hour and 35 minutes.
Da Gurlz, captained by Ada Harvey, and crewed by Kerry Ahmasuk, Senora Ahmasuk, Katy Tomter and Brandolyn Ahyakak, came in a close second, only one minute behind the winners.
Third Place was the USS Titanic, captained by Jon Smith.
“It was the best day you could ask for, for a raft race,” Klay Baker told the Nugget.
(see raft race photos on page 16)


The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112


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