IN NOME, THEY FISH FOR KING CRAB from snow machines. Local resident Carl Emmons has a pet reindeer who hops in back of his pickup and rides around in it like a dog. After the holidays Nomeites stick their Christmas trees in the frozen surface of Norton Sound and put up a sign that reads “Nome National Forest.” In which they then play golf.
Which makes Nome a fitting end for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Of the thirty-five hundred Nomeites, fully a third will volunteer in some capacity for an event related to the Iditarod, from fur hat workshops to Eskimo dancing to the Wet Buns Contest down at the Polaris Bar. Richard Beneville channels Nome River Sally and Laban Iyatungak marshalls the Nome to Golovin snowmachine race. They’re making and selling reindeer hot dogs and hosting cinammon roll feasts and there are dart, broomball and basketball tournaments.
All this is of course incidental to the main event, a one thousand forty-nine mile sled dog race which traverses a mountain range, frozen rivers and bays and vast tracts of wilderness, plagued by blizzards and below-zero temperatures, with this year seventy-nine mushers competing to be first beneath the burled arch in Nome, or at least just to make it that far.
Nome is ready for them.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.