Community organizations in Homer have been making plans for the annual Homer Winter Carnival Celebration, which marks its 70th year this weekend with the theme “What’s Old is New!”.
While the parade is the centerpiece of the carnival, other weekend activities, such as the ice race and basketball tournament, are also scheduled to also take place.
The parade will launch at noon on Pioneer Avenue, starting at Homer High School and finishing at the HERC building.
As of Monday afternoon, 17 participants were registered for the parade. Homer Chamber of Commerce Director Brad Anderson, who provided the list, expected several more last-minute entries.
Two groups contributing effort to the year’s parade are West Homer Elementary School’s Japanese Language Club and the Bunnell Street Arts Center.
Bunnell provided space in their gallery for two weekends at the end of January for local artists to create various types of sculptures and costumes for walkers in the parade.
According to their website, the Bunnell artist sculptures were constructed in part to celebrate the Homer Drawdown’s Non-Motorized Transportation project and the Homer Cycling Club’s Homer Shares the Road campaign.
Parade participants with Bunnell will also be handing out “Homer Shares the Road” bumper stickers.
West Homer Elementary School’s Japanese Language Club students constructed 30 cardboard Taiko drums that they will be playing with bachi sticks during the parade.
Japanese Taiko drums have been a part of Japanese rhythmic instruments for 1,500 years, according to Megumi Beams, Sister City liaison/interpreter and Japanese International Exchange coordinator/instructor for the City of Homer.
Beams is coordinating the second year of her Japanese Language Club with students in elementary schools across the Homer area. In a newsletter to parents, Beams describes some of the activities the students are engaged in, including learning to speak and write letters and their names in Japanese, and opportunities to correspond with pen pals from Taishi High School in Hyogo, Japan.
An introduction to the drums is the newest part of the Japanese club.
Homer Ice Racing Association
Michelle Gaegel, secretary with the Homer Ice Racing Association, said the organization has been involved in the winter ice racing and the carnival since approximately 1957. A Monday post on the Facebook page notes that they are currently planning a full fledged race day on Saturday.
Homer Winter Carnival Basketball Tournament
Homer High School is hosting a three-day basketball tournament this weekend with guest teams from Ninilchik, Delta and Galena.
The first game, Ninilchik vs. Delta girls, starts at 3 p.m. Thursday. The full game schedule can be found on the Homer High School athletics website at https://kpbsd.org/schools/homer-high/athletics/.
The Homer High School cheerleaders will be joined by “Little Mariner” cheerleaders at the girls varsity halftime show on Thursday and the boys varsity halftime show on Friday. The cheerleaders are also scheduled to participate in the parade walk and performance on Saturday.
A rich history
Homer City Council member Shelly Erickson recalls some of the history of the carnival event in Homer.
In 1977, Erickson (then Edens) was crowned Miss Homer when she was a senior at the Homer High School, which is now Homer Middle School. The pageant took place in the gym of what is now the HERC building on the corner of Pioneer Avenue and the Sterling Highway.
“The HERC gym was the community center. That’s where all the community events took place, basketball games, everything,” Erickson said.
Erickson’s father’s history in Homer goes farther back than that. In the 1950s, Brentley Edens had a 16-millimeter movie camera that he used to film various Homer events. Erickson still has access to movies of the Homer Winter Carnival that were filmed then.
According to Erickson, the Miss Homer pageant used to be a very big part of the winter carnival.
“Growing up the winter carnival in Homer was a really big deal. There were all kinds of activities that used to be a part of it. To be in the pageant you would (have) to find a sponsor and sell raffle tickets.”
Erickson described how in the 1960s in order to construct a stage in the gym, people would gather oil drums and cover them with plywood. The pageant also included live organ music for the whole show. The Homer pageant was not a part of the larger Miss Alaska pageant.
“The big thing I remember was that if we were involved in the larger state event we would have to participate in the swimsuit component of the show and most of us didn’t want to do that. So, instead we just had a physical fitness routine that we included as part of our show,” Erickson said.
She said the pageant always packed the gym to standing room only, all the bleachers filled with members of the community coming out to watch.
“It was a big town event,” she said.
Besides the pageant, the other big part of the winter carnival in the 1970s was the ice racing event on Beluga Lake. That event remains today, when the ice on the lake is frozen enough to handle the vehicles.
Erickson also mentioned snowshoe baseball and, of course, the annual the parade.
“I remember in junior high we had to march with our band uniforms playing music in the parade. Everyone would come out and walk with their horses and their dogs. It was almost as big of an event as going to Seldovia for the Fourth of July parade.”