The Homer contra dance community is organizing a memorial dance for Gary Thomas, Homer’s longtime volunteer and public-spirited master of ceremonies. Thomas passed away in January 2020 due to an accidental boiler explosion while checking on a friend’s home when they were out of town.
Thomas was deeply involved in the Homer community during his life. He was a founding volunteer and former general manager of KBBI, former editor and publisher for Homer News, the longest-serving volunteer firefighter with the Homer Volunteer Fire Department, and participated in a plethora of other volunteer activities including involvement with the Rotary Club, supervising Homer’s annual health fair and hosting and serving as auctioneer for numerous fundraising and advocacy events across the peninsula.
The memorial event, which is set to be held on Saturday, Sept. 9 at West Homer Elementary, will feature square and contra dancing, with live music by the Spit City Slickers. Caller Brian DeMarcus will also debut a tribute dance he wrote and dedicated to Thomas called “The Giving Man.”
The contra dance community typically holds monthly dances, of which the Sept. 9 memorial is the first of the season, Thomas’s wife, Laura Patty, told Homer News on Friday.
The memorial dance was originally planned for March 2020, but was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.
“This is the first opportunity we’ve had for (DeMarcus) to come down and call the dance since then,” Patty said.
DeMarcus knew Thomas through the Dancing Bears, an Anchorage nonprofit dance organization that highlights contra dancing and holds a dance camp every Memorial Day weekend in Wasilla. Patty has been involved in the local contra dance community since it started in the 1980s, she said, and Thomas supported her passion. They were both members of the Dancing Bears and attended the Wasilla dance camps, Patty as a dancer and Thomas volunteering in other ways.
“He did their auction, raised a bunch of money and chipped in on the maintenance committee, and he just did his thing he always does, being the giving person that he was,” Patty said. “So that is why the dance is called ‘The Giving Man,’ it’s to honor the spirit in which he lived his life.”
There is a $10 admission fee for adults, payable to Homer Community Recreation, for the Sept. 9 memorial dance. Youth in grade 12 or younger may join for free.
For more information, visit www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/com-rec/gary-thomas-giving-man-memorial-square-and-contra-dance-sept-9th.