Story last updated at 1:54 p.m. Thursday, July 18, 2002

Homer's Best Bets
Lately the Betster is thinking that investing in the stock market might be more risky than running through the McNeil River with a couple of raw steaks strapped to your back. Although if you're looking for stock tips on this page, we should talk. Better to earn your living the old-fashioned way, by catching and selling fish or offering boat rides to tourists. But seriously, here's a tip from the heart -- time spent hiking our fine trails and beaches is an investment in the spirit that always pays dividends. In a conversation with one lovely person who moved recently to Homer from Dutch Harbor, the Betmeister learned that our weather of late is more L.A. than Alaska. So if lounging is more your style, grab your sun-tan lotion and hit the beach. And on the way, you might contemplate these humbly offered tips on other happening ways to invest your time:

BEST SHOPAPOLOOZA BET: Feeling the need to do some fun shopping, but you'd rather be outdoors and skip the 4-hour drive to the Anchorage malls? Then take advantage of the anti-mall experience that is Homer's annual Summer Street Fair, which takes place Saturday at the Homer High School parking lot. More than 90 arts and craft booths will be selling their wares from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The day comes complete with entertainment from Three-Legged Mule, The Rockwells, Michael and Jessica Schallock and Surfeit, as well as a drumming circle and tap and belly dancers. Homer Council on the Arts, the event's sponsor, will raffle off various items.

BEST BROWN BEAR CHOW DOWN BET: There are lots of big old bears roaming the wilds of Alaska, but we humans hardly ever get to see them. Whether you love Alaska's bears or they scare the heck out of you, they are pretty shy critters and don't often present themselves. Well, the Homer Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center has a solution. The phobic and fanatic alike can gather around a TV monitor and watch a live feed from the McNeil River State Wildlife Sanctuary, where the biggest of the mainland brown bears are currently feasting on chum salmon at McNeil River Falls. The video feed, which is beamed to Homer via Mount Augustine, is provided by a remote camera installed by SeeMore Wildlife Systems. There will be an interpreter at the chamber visitor center Monday<>Saturday from 2 until 6 p.m. The live footage of the McNeil bears in their natural habitat is also available 24 hours a day on local GCI Cable Channel 3.

BEST HOB-NOB WITH THE ARTISTS BET: It's always fun to rub elbows with the inspired, so the Betster recommends a couple of opportunities this weekend. Artist Barbara Lavallee will be hanging out with some of her work at the Art Shop Gallery on Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. And Karla Morriera will be on hand at the Sea Lion Gallery on Saturday from noon until 4 p.m.

BEST BUCKLE 'EM IN BET: The Betmeister is an absolute sucker when it comes to babies and toddlers and, therefore, would like to pass on a tip about the free car-seat checks going on around the lower peninsula this week. The first will take place at the Homer Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Checks will also be happening at: Ninilchik Clinic, Wednesday, 1-3 p.m.; Nikolaevsk School, July 30, 1-3 p.m.; Anchor Point Volunteer Fire Department, 1-3 p.m.

BEST FRUITS OF OUR LABOR BET: The Homer Farmers' Market is a happening place to be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, with the freshest Alaska-grown produce you'll find within a hundred miles. The market also has crafts and other goodies for sale, as well as some toe-tapping entertainment.