Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.


It was a 10-bus day Thursday in Nenana. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Nenana Artisan Market

The Nenana Artisan Market is open for business. Kris Capps/News-Miner

It was a 10-bus day Thursday at the Nenana Artisan Market and Nenana Cultural Center, and business was booming.

Six of those buses were unannounced stops, which had vendors smiling and happily greeting crowds of unexpected visitors.


Musher Dave Turner takes visitors on a dog sled ride around the Nenana Cultural Center and Nenana Artisan Market. He and Nenana musher Jessie Holmes offer this visitor option all summer long. Kris Capps/News-Miner

There’s plenty for these folks to do during this brief stop. Nenana musher Jessie Holmes and his colleague, musher Dave Turner, offer a quick and exciting sled dog ride, looping around the two long buildings on the riverfront.


Kat McElroy creates glass beads. She is one of a roomful of artisans at the Nenana Artisan Market. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Nenana Artisan Market

Jeff Lovato, of Palmdale, California, was one of many visitors who bought a delicious cinnamon roll from Jessica Stephens. Kris Capps/News-Miner

The Nenana Artisan Market is filled with local vendors selling everything from homemade lip balm made from beeswax to Chaga, beaded jewelry and other crafts. Homemade cinnamon rolls disappeared quickly off trays at Jessica Stephens’ booth, along with her cinnamon rhubarb, blueberry and mixed berry muffins.

Nearby, local trapper Jim Hautala invited visitors to feel his lynx, wolf, otter and beaver pelts. Yes, those are for sale.


Trapper Jim Hautala sells pelts to visitors at the Nenana Artisan Market. Kris Capps/News-Miner

This is an authentic Alaska experience, one that Nenana residents are building on every year. Last season, 40,000 visitors stopped here for a quick visit en route to either Fairbanks or Denali National Park.

A walking trail that starts near the artisan center is now being renovated, along with interpretive signs describing life along the river. A nearby pavilion is due to be repainted later this month as part of a Love Nenana Days project.


A walk along the Tanana River includes interpretive signs describing history of the area. The signs are in the process of being upgraded and replaced. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Last year, local entrepreneurs launched the Nenana Tourism Association, and regular meetings are now stoking enthusiasm. The group hopes to take better advantage of the river with a potential boat tour. Soon, some guided walking tours and other activities may be added, as well.


Young entrepreneurs Canyon and Hayden May sell handmade moose poop Christmas ornaments at the Nenana Cultural Center. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Meanwhile, Susan Yates will continue popping popcorn for visitors. She spearheads the Nenana Artisan Market and last year was the top buyer of popcorn in the state. She popped 1,200 pounds of popcorn.

This is Alaska, so you never know what to expect. Visitors stepping off buses are greeted by Nenana resident Kelton Shields performing a very slick Michael Jackson dance. This is his passion and he loves to share it with visitors.

Nenana Artisan Market

The first thing visitors see when they step off the bus is Nenana resident Kelton Shields sharing his passion for dancing like Michael Jackson. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Welcome to Nenana.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.