Best Bets

“Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain so yellow.”

Try to remember, if you can, a time before you were a proud Homerite, well versed in local lingo and knowledgeable of all things lower Kenai Peninsula. Imagine if you will a day on which you weren’t known around town and when there wasn’t a friendly face around the corner of each grocery store aisle.

This Betster remembers such a time as though it were yesterday — getting the hang of the route to and from work, spotting little niche shops one hadn’t seen before, perhaps fumbling a bit while getting used to the new intersections. And always distracted and in awe at the prolific Kenai Mountains looming majestically in the not-too-distant distance.

With so many wonders at one’s fingertips, it can be difficult for a newcomer to know quite where to start. What to do? What to see first? Luckily for them, those meandering misfits or eager explorers who make their way to the better part of the peninsula have no shortage of friendly faces to guide them in the search for fun and community connection.

After living in a place so long, it can be easy to look past the scenes, events, people and pastimes that once made our home so entertaining and unique.

Let’s not take all the opportunities offered up by our area for granted. The Betster, for one, will endeavor to experience life through the eyes of a tenderfoot, perhaps revisiting events, concerts or groups passed over long ago. Maybe some of these Best Bets will do the trick and help you reconnect with the Homer you fell in love with.

BEST GROUP GRUB BET: A seasoned Homerite might not think to attend a community dinner at the Homer United Methodist Church. As well as we think we know our neighbors, there are always more to know as well as a constant stream of new faces popping up. Plus, the Betster always finds food tastes just a tad better with the word “free” preceding it. The next dinner is from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, July 27.

BEST PRE-FEST BET: A cornerstone of life on the lower peninsula is the annual Salmonfest, formerly Salmonstock. If, like the unfortunate Betster, you are unable to make it out to the big event this year, fear not! We have a mini Salmonfest right here in our backyard that should serve as a great primer, the Salmonfest Music Series in Partnership with Alice’s Champagne Palace. If anyone is on the fence about attending or just wants a taste, they can listen to The Gary Sloan Duo at 9 p.m. this Friday for free at Alice’s.

BEST STATE PRIDE BET: Who’s better to induct a newbie to the area than Alaska’s own official balladeer? To fresh eyes, Hobo Jim is a quirky, unique character and a joy to see perform live. If you haven’t seen him in a beat, head to AJ’s at 6:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Reservations are recommended.

BEST NATURE BET: We sometimes like to think that once we’ve taken a look, a gander, a stroll through some place or other that we’ve seen all that needs to be seen. We can check it off our list. This fails to take into consideration the fact that the environment is ever-changing. Homer didn’t look the same 20 or even 10 years ago, and the Betster bets the Beluga Slough didn’t either. Taking advantage of the ranger-led walks through the slough can teach us more about the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and help us stay up to date on how it’s changed in Homer over the years. The walks are held at 11 a.m. daily (1 p.m. Sat-Sun) starting at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.

BEST BASIC BET: Tidepooling probably feels tired and overdone to many who have lived here as long as the Betster. Visitors doing it might be seen as novices, as it’s old news. However, the joy it seems to bring to those who have never before had the opportunity make it worth another trip out. Not keen on going on your own? Take the guided tidepooling trip at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays at Bishop’s Beach, also led by the refuge.