Forget the cruise ship passengers, the foreign adventurers and the production staffs of Alaska’s 47 reality TV shows. As most Alaskans know, the real backbone of the visitor industry can be summed up in three initials: V, F and R. That’s ‘visiting friends and relatives,’ the people you know who live in the Lower 49 who just have to come up and see you.
Suppose you recently moved up to Alaska to start an exciting career in small-town journalism. Now that you have a spare couch, an old friend from college or a second cousin twice removed will decide it’s the right time to visit our quirky little town (number one in a recent poll). What did the New York Times call it? The cosmographic burglet at the end of the road? Something like that. Next thing you know you’re playing tour guide to your mother’s cousin’s husband’s sister-in-law’s niece.
The Betster has lived in Alaska since the Gov. Jay Hammond administration and seen dozens of VFRs land on these shores. You’d think VFRs would space things out nicely, which they can do with social media if they all were connected. But no. For the past few years the B. has had a VFR drought, but all of a sudden the summer calendar looks like visits from two sisters, a long-lost aunt, some Anchorage friends who retired to Washington, the brother of the B’s brother-in-law and maybe a college pal who on a whim decided to ride her Harley up from Twin Snakes, Fla. This is not counting Anchorage family and friends who randomly show up. They usually bring tents.
But complicated as it might be entertaining friends, admit it. You like to show off Homer. It’s like when you were a kid and had this really cool dinosaur action figure collection and your buddy from second grade came to visit. You got to talk intelligently about T. Rex and why it had such tiny little hands (for typing, of course).
So show your VFRs the town and give them something totes amazing to do, like these Best Bets:
BEST GINORMOUS BOAT BET: At 50-feet, the F/V King Island almost pushed through the roof at the Bay Weld Boats barn. It’s the biggest boat Bay Weld has built, proof of Homer’s growing marine trades industry. Check it out from 4-8 p.m. today for an open house at HH Float in the Homer Harbor near the near harbor office.
BEST GET OUT BET: You don’t need a Tolman skiff or an open account with a water taxi to see cool things around town. With summer in full swing, the Pratt Museum, the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center and the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies have tours that are free or affordable. Check out the Calendar, page 14, for options like a Pratt gallery tour at 11 a.m. Friday, Beluga Slough guided hikes at 11 a.m. Sunday or Monday at I & O, and a Learn Your Local Plants at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Wynn Nature Center.
BEST OF THE BEST BET: Some incredible authors and poets descend on Homer this weekend for the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, so if you see someone wandering around town and randomly jotting down thoughts in a journal, there you go. You can hear the faculty speak at free, open to the public readings. At 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mariner Theatre, keynote speaker and poet Natasha Tretheway reads. Other conference writers read at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Alice’s Champagne Palace and at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Land’s End Resort.
BEST A GOOD WALK BET: Fresh air, fine greens and the art of directing a small ball into a hole way off in the distance: that’s golf. Sweeten the game with a benefit for Hospice of Homer at its annual Holes “Fore” Hospice Golf Tournament starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at the TIPS Golf Course.
BEST BIG BIRD BETS: Let’s hope the mosquitoes are smaller than the birds on the Kachemak Birders First Saturday trip. The birders take an expedition out to Eagle Lake near Mile 18 East End Road to look for jaegers and other avian wonders. Meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Homestead Restaurant to carpool or at 9 a.m. at the Eagle Lake trailhead. Bring bug dope, rubber boots, binoculars, bird guides, water and snacks. The trip is free.