Homer outdoor film fest raises funds, celebrates HoWL’s accomplishments

It was an evening of adventure, of hilarity, of community engagement. The Homer Outdoor Film Festival, also known as HoWL’s annual fundraiser, drew a crowd of more than 300 people to the Mariner Theater, where HoWL showcased 16 incredible films by local professional and amateur filmmakers alike. 

Filmmakers included: Avram Salzmann, Ghen Sasakura, Bjørn Ohlson, Cole Roberts, Ian Hall, Ben Sturgulewski, Paxson Woelber, Charlie Ess, Buck Kunz, Alaska Geographic and Sweetgrass Productions.

There were two awards given to filmmakers, the Audience Choice Award and the Judge’s Choice Award. 

The Audience Choice Award was determined by audience members, who texted their choice and watched the ranking add up live on the big screen. It was a close race between Ghen Sasakura’s “THELB” and Avram Salzmann’s “Eat It,” but at the last moment, “Eat It” pulled ahead and Avram Salzmann of Homer Middle School won the big check for $250.

The Judge’s Choice Award went to Anchorage filmmaker, Ben Sturgulewski’s “2014 Adventure Cinematographic Reel.” 

Several community members were honored at the Saturday evening event,  including Mako Haggerty of Mako’s Water Taxi for HoWL’s Supporter of the Year. HoWL’s Partner of the Year award went to Roger MacCampbell, Kachemak Bay Park Ranger. And HoWL’s volunteer of the year went to Deborah Anderson. 

Three local youth won HoWL awards as well. Katlyn Vogl won the “Eivin Award,” for her hard work and leadership. Lukyan Dax won the award for “Most Field Days,” after HoWLing for 33 days this summer, and Ghen Sasakura, a Homer High School senior, won the “High Camp Award,” for his progression through HoWL’s programs. Sasakura has been invited to join HoWL’s staff next summer.

In addition to the films and the awards, HoWL announced some impressive statistics: In 2014, more than 500 youth participated in HoWL programs, more than 100 volunteers have come together to make the programs run, nearly 300 local businesses and individuals have supported HoWL’s programs, and HoWL awarded almost $20,000 in scholarships so that every kid who wants to go can join HoWL in the wilderness.

HoWL announced its 2015 schedule, which includes multiple trips to Augustine Island as well as plenty of other exciting new trips and all of the classic standards like Edible Harvest and Fire and Ice. The 2015 schedule will be online before Christmas, or available in print at HoWL Headquarters in the meantime.

The 2014 Homer Outdoor Film Festival was a showcase of that youthful exuberance that the community around HoWL experiences in the wilderness and back at home. There were paparazzi surrounding a red carpet, two flashmobs, a hilarious skit about HoWL, free bacon-on-a-stick to all attendees, dinner catered by Maura’s and Two Sisters, almost 300 auction items to bid on, and more than 300 community members dressed to the nines and engaged with this organization that strives to empower young leaders by providing outdoor, experiential education through fun and dynamic adventures in Alaska. 

It was a HoWLin’ good time and an event not to miss next year.

Libby Bushell Veasey is HoWL’s executive and programs director.