Raise your glass to music at Bear Creek Winery

Known for award-winning wines, Bear Creek Winery is dipping into another venture with the first Bear Creek Music Festival. It features solo performer Cousin Curtiss, Anchorage jazz band Hot Club, California’s folk group Alec Lytle and Them Rounders, and Alaska’s very own Denali Cooks performing at the winery’s pavilion, 1-6 p.m., May 20.

Tickets for this 21-and-over event are $75, include two drinks of beer or wine and food, and are available at the winery or online at eventbrite.com. There also will be door prizes and a silent auction during the festival.

All proceeds benefit the Nikki Geragotelis (Fry) Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Homer Mariner Fast-pitch Softball Fund, two permanent funds managed by the Homer Foundation.

Geragotelis, the daughter of Bear Creek Winery owners Bill and Dorothy Fry, died unexpectedly at the age of 30 on Oct. 10, 2013. The scholarship was established by her family and friends as a way to keep Geragotelis’ memory alive by helping students wanting to continue their education. Geragotelis is remembered for her “walk-on” spirit, hard work and friendliness, as well as her sportsmanship, athleticism and integrity.

“Nikki loved softball. She represented Alaska at the California tournaments as a member of the state’s all-star team. She also played at Southern Oregon University. Bill Bell coached Nikki. He started the fast-pitch Mariner fund right about the same time we opened the Nikki fund. That is why we partnered up with them on this fundraiser,” said Bill Fry.

The Nikki Geragotelis (Fry) Memorial Scholarship was initially funded with $11,000 and has grown to more than $17,000. It is anticipated the festival will boost it to more than $30,000.

Samantha Draves, a 2016 Homer High School graduate, was the scholarship’s first recipient. Draves is using the scholarship dollars to pursue a pre-med degree at the College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio.

“We tried to get her to appear (at the festival) and speak to the crowd, but she will not be back from school in time. Maybe next year,” said Fry, hinting there may be more festivals in the future.

With the pavilion already built and the winery stocked with wine, Fry saw the two as a perfect combination for a music festival.

“All I would need to do is make some beer and round up some bands, and we would be able to see enough tickets to make a sizable contribution to Nikki’s scholarship fund. I want it to eventually be the biggest scholarship of all,” he said.

Curtiss blends Americana, blues, quasi-electronica and root-stomp rhythms and, with a looping pedal, weaves together his guitar, harmonica and bass to create a blend of Keller Williams, Dave Matthews Band, Black Keys and Mumford and Sons.

Hot Club of Nunaka combines guitar, clarinet, violin and mandolin to create a gypsy jazz sound. The original songs performed by Alec Lytle and Them Rounders is Lytle’s way of transporting his listeners to a “simpler and calmer time.” The Denali Cooks’ original music, fresh lyrics, musicianship and harmonies creates what the band describes as “feel good, ‘made in Alaska, rock and soul music.”

“This is a good well-rounded bunch,” Sandy Rollins of the winery said about the musicians.

There won’t be parking at the winery during the music fest because space there is limited, Rollins said.

Instead, parking space has been arranged with Down East Saloon and Kachemak City Hall. Homer Trolley will haul everybody up to the festival free of charge.

“If this goes well, I anticipate we would do it again,” said Fry. “We have some great music, great food and great ideas that should make this the event of the year.”

The music festival is not the only way to support the Nikki Geragotelis (Fry) Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“Anyone that wants to help us grow this scholarship can give cash or check to the Homer Foundation. Just earmark it for ‘The Nikki Fund,’ checks made out to the Homer Foundation,” said Fry.

Bear Creek Winery’s setting on Bear Creek Drive, with views of Kachemak Bay, the mountains on the bay’s southern shore, and the winery’s gardens, are a popular backdrop for local events. As recently as December, the winery’s Garden of Lights” celebrated the holiday season with music, a fire pit and hot chocolate. Earlier in 2016, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra woodwind group played for Homer Garden Club’s annual Gardeners Weekend reception.

McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer and can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@gmail.com.

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