Winter carnival promises something old, something new

Strap on your seatbelt. This 2014 Homer Winter Carnival, with its “dancing in the streets” theme, promises to be action-packed with a combination of the best events from years gone by and the addition of some new-this-year excitement.

The fun begins today and continues through Sunday, spearheaded by a committee of three: Dax Radtke, and husband-and-wife team Dean and Genny Miller. With events sponsored by different businesses and nonprofits, the carnival serves the dual purpose of being a multi-faceted fundraiser.

It was memories of carnivals past that inspired lifelong Homer resident Genny Miller to see if she couldn’t resurrect the celebrations she remembered.

“It seemed like it was anything you could think of to have fun, making fun out of nothing,” said Miller of the carnival’s early years when locals were eager for something to break up long, cold Alaska winters.

Radtke has been hard at work choreographing opening ceremonies scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.

Originally scheduled for Karen Hornaday Park, the event has been moved to Mariner Park. It includes fireworks, a bonfire and the singing of the Alaska Flag Song, which was originally planned to be performed by a 100-voice young people’s choir, but last-minute changes have altered that piece of the event, too. Thankfully, Radtke’s event-organizing experience has given him the ability to create alternate plans.

“When you plan events, you always have a Plan B,” said Radtke.

Weather-dependent events are another area where back-up plans are important. Such is the case with the scheduled snowshoe softball game. With no snow to be found, at least here at sea level, that activity has been replaced with the first annual indoor wiffle ball tournament. The game is a variation of baseball safe for confined spaces thanks to a perforated, lightweight ball and a plastic bat.  It will be held at the HERC gym on Saturday. Cost is $50 a team or $10 per person, with a maximum of six players per team, age 12 or older.

“Participants can still join or make up new teams,” said Mike Illg, who is coordinating the event and can be reached at 299-6425 or “Proceeds go to the Children’s Tumor Foundation on behalf of Leo Ogle.”

Outhouse races are one of those events Miller recalled from carnivals of her youth. Not the dash across snow from a warm cabin to the little building out back to take care of what needed taking care of, but the kind of event where teams put together easy-to-transport outhouse replicas and compete to see who can move them the quickest.

The Mr. Homer Pageant also is making a comeback, with some of Homer’s finest vying for the coveted title on the Mariner Theatre stage on Saturday. 

The number of nonprofits benefiting from the carnival is impossible to count, according to Radtke and the Millers. The number of different HWC pins that have been created hint at the level of participation, however. The buttons can be purchased by businesses and nonprofits from HWC for $2 each and then resold for $4, with proceeds benefiting the nonprofit of choice. 

“I want to thank the American Legion and the Elks and their leaders,” said Radtke. “They have bought more buttons than the entire rest of the city combined.”

Razdolna Tots is one of the newest nonprofits to get involved in the carnival.

“We’re trying to build a building where we can have Slavic Russian language classes,” said Kiril Basargin of a plan to offer classes for adults, as well as youngsters. While the building would most likely be located in Razdolna, it would be open to the public. To help reach its $200,000 building goal, the group will have “Razdolna Tots” bags for sale throughout the community this weekend. 

The Saturday parade is a carnival constant and, as in years past, is being organized by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center and sponsored by Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, according to Jim Lavrakas, the chamber’s executive director. The route begins at the Homer High School parking lot and continues along Pioneer Avenue to the HERC. Entrants are asked to be at the parking lot by 11 a.m. The judges’ reviewing stand will be at Bay Realty and prizes will be given for best nonprofit, best individual or family, best for-profit and judges’ choice.

KBBI is returning another element of the carnival that has fallen by the wayside: live coverage of the parade.

“We used to do that years ago and when we stopped doing it, we kept hearing from people that we should be broadcasting the parade,” said Dave Anderson, KBBI’s general manager. “I talked to Aaron (Selbig, news director) and Ariel (Van Cleave, Morning Edition host) and they’re game to stand on the Bay Realty balcony and talk about the parade and give people listening on the radio a little sense of what’s going on. I think they could really be entertaining. It should be very fun.”

Radtke and the Millers efforts are geared toward an entire weekend of community-involved fun.

“You can’t just live here and sit in a lawn chair,” said Miller. “You’ve got to be part of it. People getting involved is what will sustain it.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at