Homer hosts its first governor’s picnic July 25

Light up the grill and invite some friends. It’s picnic time in Homer.

In this case, the free community picnic, one of five governor’s picnics to be held around the state, with the public invited to share the festivities with Governor and First Lady Sean and Sandy Parnell, Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, department commissioners, deputy commissioners and a host of elected officials. 

“We really hope people can make it out for what’s a big, fun, community event. It’s a time for Homer to get together and enjoy the summer,” said Katie Koester of the city of Homer.

The picnic will be held at Karen Hornaday Park from 4-7 p.m. July 25. 

 “As far as volunteers go, Jenny Martin has done a great job rounding up volunteers, but if there’s anyone else out there wanting to help, we can certainly find a slot for them,” said Katie Koester, the city of Homer’s economic development coordinator.

Volunteers are helping with everything from setting up to cleaning up. Consideration has been given to accommodate elderly and handicapped. Businesses in the area have helped with financial, as well as in-kind donations.

“We want to thank the community for stepping up and volunteering,” said Koester.

Parking will be similar to that used for KBBI’s Concert On the Lawn, with a free shuttle providing transportation from parking areas to the picnic.

In addition to food and an opportunity to meet the governor, there will be information booths provided by the:

• Alaska Department of Fish and Game;

• Alaska Housing Finance Corporation; 

• Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

• Alaska Department of Corrections

• Alaska Department of Labor

• Alaska Department of Public Safety

• Alaska Department of Natural Resources

• Alaska Department of Law; and

• The Choose Respect initiative.

“That’s an opportunity people have if they have questions,” said Koester.

What’s a picnic without activities for the youngsters? Those will be offered by Best Beginnings Homer, Sprout, The Center, face painting by the Pitta family and South Peninsula Hospital, with Project GRAD providing cotton candy.

With weather anybody’s guess, Koester said, “We are doing all of our dances for a sunny day, but we have a lot of tents so there will be some shelter. We also have a donation of some rain ponchos. Other than that, it’s Alaska. Dress for the weather because the event will happen, rain or shine.”

While in Homer, Parnell also will speak to a noon meeting of Homer-Kachemak Bay Rotary at the Best Western Bidarka Inn.

At 3 p.m., Parnell will attend a valve-turning to begin the flow of natural gas to South Peninsula Hospital, the first public building in the Homer Natural Gas Special Assessment District to receive natural gas. Enstar, the city of Homer and South Peninsula Hospital are hosting that event.

“We’re really excited because the governor will be here and this is a great opportunity to say ‘go’ on that project,” said Koester. 

The number of people instrumental in bringing natural gas to the community makes it impossible to have all the key players at the microphone for the valve-turning, according to Derotha Ferraro, the hospital’s public relations director.

“We have invited some elected officials to represent everybody involved and make remarks for this special event,” said Ferraro. “Natural gas potentially means a lot for the community. The hospital is the heart of the community and it will mean a tremendous savings for us.”

The public is invited, although the valve’s location is in a restricted area, making it impossible for everyone to witness the actual turning.

“In recognizing that, we will do a tape cutting and then the governor will turn the valve,” said Ferraro.”

The annual governor’s picnics began in 1959, the year Alaska became a state. Through the years, they have been held in Juneau, the state’s capital city, as well as Anchorage, Fairbanks and at the state fairgrounds in Palmer. Two years ago Parnell’s administration added a “traveling picnic.” Proposals are submitted from communities around the state, with the selection based on the venue chosen for the event, the level of community support and a plan for volunteers. Glennallen was chosen in 2012. 

Guidelines call for the picnic to be free, non-partisan, public events paid for with community fundraising. The host community is responsible for planning the event, including location, the program and details.

This year’s picnics are at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer on Friday, in Anchorage on July 20, Fairbanks on July 21 and Juneau on July 23. The Homer picnic is from 4-7 p.m.

Anyone wanting to volunteer can call Koester, 465-3101.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.