In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 5:13 PM on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Homer Winter Carnival: Mardi Gras, Kachemak Style

New Orleans has its Mardi Gras, Anchorage has Fur Rendezvous, but here in Homer we do our annual Winter Carnival Kachemak Bay style.


Photo by Michael Armstrong

The Bossy Panties lead the Bossy Pants Band and the Krewe of Gambrinus Social Aid and Pleasure Club in the Homer Winter Carnival Parade.

Sure, New Orleans might have a big parade, but does it have ice and snow? Anchorage might have ice and snow, but does it have ice racing on frozen lakes? When it comes to a small town winter carnival during the Mardi Gras season of Epiphany to Lent, you can't get any more local than here.

Now in its 57th year, Homer's Winter Carnival preceded statehood. Heck, it even preceded formal incorporation of Homer as a city. Since 1956, Homer has looked to carnival festivities to get us through the gloomy days of midwinter.

While events vary, the big ones include:

• A big parade down Pioneer Avenue,

• Ice racing on Beluga Lake,

• Lots of indoor activities like music, dance and the big drawing for the Winter Shopping Derby winner.

Sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Winter Carnival starts next Thursday, Feb. 7, with the Winter Carnival Basketball Tournament at Homer High School and runs through Feb. 10 with Ice Racing and Snowmachine Racing on Beluga Lake. Throughout the weekend businesses and nonprofits put on events tied into the carnival, like free ice skating at the Kevin Bell Ice Arena sponsored by NOMAR or music at AJ's OldTown Steakhouse. This year's theme is "Snowmachines, Skates and Skis — Oh My!"

"Tell Homer to come out and enjoy the weekend," said Nyla Lightcap, carnival coordinator for the chamber. "It will be fun."

The Saturday parade at noon has always been a popular event. The Homer Ice Racing Association drivers show off their stock car and modified-stock car in the parade. Businesses and nonprofits as well as individuals and families can join the parade and compete for prizes in Homer Bucks, the local currency printed by the chamber and good at participating merchants. Register in advance for the parade or show up at the staging area at the high school before.

"I'm really excited about the parade," said Monte Davis, executive director of the chamber, who will emcee the parade with Chris Story. "It should be fun no matter what with Chris and I."

Parade entries can range from Homer Cycling Club members on big fat bikes and unicycles to a perennial favorite, Homer's own taste of Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Gambrinus Social Aid and Pleasure Club. They'll march with the Bossy Pants band and the Bossy Panties dancers.

Founded by Mardi Gras elders Karen Berger and Steve McCasland, Mardi Gras groups date back to 1995 when Bob Folse and Brother Asaiah led a band known as the Paradoxical Love Warriors in the Winter Carnival parade. Mardi Gras krewes have spread elsewhere in the state. Last weekend, members of the Krewe of Gambrinus and local band Ray-Jen Cajun marched in the Juneau winter carnival parade with Krewe Chanceau, the Juneau krewe. Krewe Chanceau will march in Homer, said the current reigning king, King Dave Aplin.

"It looks like we're fomenting a Mardi Gras tradition in Alaska," Aplin said.

The Bossy Pants and Bossy Panties have been working out a performance to fit the theme of snowmachines, skates and skis, "which has been a challenge for us to adapt to, since none of those are typically in our realm," Aplin said. "I think the audience will be surprised by our innovative solution."

Ray-Jen Cajun performs at the public Mardi Gras ball at 8 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Down East Saloon.

Ice racing is weather dependent, but as of this week the ice racing association was out plowing the lake after Monday's snow and getting the track in shape. Get a preview at 1 p.m. Sunday of the racing.

Winter Carnival Kachemak Bay style is not weather dependent, though. The parade will go on, rain, sleet, snow and sunshine, Lightcap said.

"Unless it's the worst blizzards we can have or something ridiculous," she said.

57th Annual Homer Winter Carnival, Feb. 7-10

Thursday, Feb. 7:

Winter Carnival Basketball Tournament

Homer High School

Locals steak Night with live music, Tribute to Johnny Cash, by DannyLee

7 p.m, AJs OldTown Steakhouse and Tavern

Friday, Feb. 8:

Pratt Playdate

10-11 a.m., Pratt Museum

Bring your toddler in for hands on activities.

Winter Carnival Basketball Tournament

Homer High School

Balloon Party

11 a.m.-5 p.m.Picture Alaska and Upstairs Boutique

Pop a balloon for purchase discounts, everyones a winner. Refreshments and door prizes.

Feed the Fish

4 p.m., Pratt Museum


7 p.m., Mariner Theatre

Tickets available at Bunnell St. Arts Center or The Homer Bookstore. Jazzline features youth and adult dancers. Tickets are $10 youth and $15 adult.

Live music by Katie and English John

7 p.m., AJs OldTown Steakhouse and Tavern

Saturday, Feb. 9:

Balloon Party

11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Picture Alaska and Upstairs Boutique

See Friday.

Homer High School Winter Carnival Basketball Tournament.

Winter Carnival Bazaar

11 a.m.-4 p.m., AJs OldTown Steakhouse and Tavern

Live piano music by Lindianne. Vendors can call 299-8019 to sign up for a table.

Arty Party

11 a.m. 4 p.m., Homer Art & Frame

Kids art projects, demonstrations, refreshments & door prizes. Paint away your winter blues.

Winter Carnival Parade

Noon, Pioneer Avenue

To sign up, call Nyla at the chamber, 235-7740, or email

Family Free Day in celebration of Winter Carnival

noon-5 p.m., Pratt Museum

Special Exhibit Encounters: Whales in Our Waters

Free donuts and coffee following the parade

1 p.m., Homer Senior Center

Ice Racers on Beluga Lake

1 p.m., Beluga Lake

Ice racing for fun. Not for points racing. Weather dependent.

Annual Paul Banks Elementary School Winter Carnival

1-4 p.m,. Sponsored by the Paul Banks PTA, following the parade.

Enjoy lots of games, food and prizes. For more information, contact Aimee at 299-2464

Kids Free Activity Day

Wells Fargo

We will have coloring and coloring books, free popcorn and more! Come after the parade, remember its free! Come to Wells Fargo to have fun.

Free skating

1:45-2:45 p.m., Kevin Bell Ice Arena

Sponsored by NOMAR in honor of winter carnival

31st annual Home Brew Contest

2-6 p.m., Best Western Bidarka

For more info call The Brew Shop 235-1470

Homer Cycling Club Ice Bike Races

2:30 p.m. Beluga lake.

Helmets required; studded tires, knee, shin, elbow and arm pads strongly encouraged. Donation entry with all proceeds to benefit the Homer Cycling Club. For more information, call Derek 299-7746


3 p.m., 7 p.m., Mariner Theatre

Tickets available at Bunnell Street Arts Center or The Homer Bookstore. Jazzline features youth and adult dancers. Tickets are $10 youth and $15 adult.

Live dinner music by Caressa

AJs OldTown Steakhouse and Tavern

Kings Ball

8 p.m., Down East Saloon

Homers Mardi Gras Ball with dancing to Ray-Jen Cajun. This is a nonsmoking event.

Sunday, Feb. 10

Ice Racers on Beluga Lake

Practice runs at 11 a.m., races begin at noon.

Two classes are stock and modified race cars. Featuring the main event races, Pitman races, Powder Puff races and two kids races. Open to the public.

120-Snowmachine Races

Noon (registration); races start at 1 p.m. Beluga Lake.

Weather dependent; backup at Homer High School parking lot.

Required registration and safety orientation at noon. Sponsored by Snomads. Call Corbin at 299-0015 for more information.

Warm up after the Ice Races with free Hot Chocolate and lattes

AJs OldTown Steakhouse and Tavern

Kids eat free every Sunday All Day (one child per adult entre)

What about Snowshoes?

2 p.m., Wynn Nature Center, East Skyline Drive

Community bonfire, smore making, snowshoeing and fun

Country Classics by DannyLee

6 p.m., AJs Oldtown Steakhouse and Tavern

Shopping Derby Party

Time and place to be announced

The winner of the Winter Shopping Derby will be drawn at the business that sold the most derby tickets. Derby tickets are due 5 p.m. Friday at the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor CenterThroughout the Winter Carnival

Winter Carnival appetizer specials

5-7 p.m., Wasabis