Story last updated at 2:30 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2002

Red, white, blue weekend ahead
by Carey James
Staff Writer

With patriotism running high, Homer area residents appear to be more enthusiastic, and certainly more reflective, about this year's observance of Independence Day.

The General Buckner American Legion Post 16 reports more people popping in for flags, hats and T-shirts.

Mary Huff of the post said she has also seen increased interest in the festivities.

"I think people here are more aware of how important it is to be involved in your community and country," she said.

Lindsey Blaine, one of the organizers of this weekend's Peninsula Horseman's Association Rodeo, said while this year's July Fourth is a time for celebration, it's also a time of sadness.

She said she knows some people who are choosing not to participate in events this year because they want to spend the time thinking of those whose lives were lost, both last September and in all the years this nation has been defending its independence.

"I feel that everybody's perception has changed," she said. "I know people who are not wanting to participate because of the sadness of the day."

Blaine said the youth in the 4-H group participating in the rodeo asked if they could do something symbolic to remember those who have lost their lives in defense of freedom.

"We are still celebrating, but we are also going to have a couple moments of silence in remembrance," she said.

While Blaine said the serious side comes at quite a price, she said from her perspective it has had a positive impact on the community.

"In a way, it has brought the country together," she said.

A long list of events are occurring in the next few days to celebrate the nation's birthday. At the center is the Homer Independence Day Parade, held Thursday on the newly paved Pioneer Avenue starting at 6 p.m. This year, several booths will also be on hand selling wares from 3 to 8 p.m. at the NOMAR parking lot.

Entrants in the parade need to report to the Homer High School by 5:15 p.m., and all children entering get a prize. Other cash prizes include $100 awards for best group, individual, bicycle and best use of theme as well as a $200 best of show award.

Other events in the Homer area include the Antiques on Wheels show, featuring antique buggies, cars, tractors, wagons and bikes, on display at the Spenard Builders Supply parking lot from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.

From noon to 4 p.m., a Fourth of July Children's Carnival will be held at the American Legion, Mile 2.5 East End Road.

The Main Street Mercantile will have refreshments, door prizes and live music before and after the parade as part of its grand opening starting at noon Thursday.

At 2 p.m., a baseball game gets under way at the Homer High School, and a barbecue to raise funds for the Homer Elks Lodge annual scholarship will be held at the lodge from noon to 4 p.m. There will also be eats at the Bay Realty parking lot.

Seldovia will also hold its annual festivities this year, starting with a 7 a.m. blueberry pancake breakfast at the Seldovia Firehouse. A parade will follow at 11 a.m. down Main Street, followed by food booths in the large white tents near the harbor. At 11:30 a.m., celebrations will continue with a raising of the flag ceremony, and music and dance performances. Parade awards will be distributed, and the Old Crab Auction will be held. An afternoon packed with activities ensues, with canoe-jousting, the blind man's kayak race, the dead fish pass and much more.

In Anchor Point, a parade will be held at 10 a.m. up Beach Road, and the day will continue with picnics and community celebrations throughout the day.

Up the road, Ninilchik will host the Peninsula Horseman's Association Rodeo starting at 7 p.m. Friday and continuing through the weekend. Events include fun for kids and grown-ups alike, a barbecue and prizes for the many riders from around the Kenai Peninsula and beyond. Tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for kids 7-12 and free for youth under 7.

While the Fourth of July is certainly a time for celebration, both law enforcement agencies and firefighters urge everyone to make sure it's a safe one, too.

Alaska State Troopers will be keeping an extra-close eye out for folks not wearing their seat belts over the holidays.

And while fireworks may seem like a nifty way to celebrate the holiday, they are illegal and extremely dangerous during the current dry weather.

Fireworks started the Millers Reach fire near Big Lake in 1996, said Sharon Roesch, fire prevention officer for the Alaska Division of Forestry, and the same thing could happen in the Homer area if sparks from fireworks were to land on the dry ground.

In addition to fireworks, Roesch warns people to be particularly careful with campfires. All campfires must be surrounded by dirt, cleaned of vegetation. Other than small campfires and covered burn barrels, burning permits have been suspended on the Kenai Peninsula as of Sunday, and Roesch said since there has not been any significant accumulation of rain, the fire danger is high, especially in the East End Road area. For a day-to-day recording on burning conditions, call 260-4269.