By Hannah Heimbuch
Watching two adults hoist a massive pot of hot cod chowder onto the counter, I wondered if enough people would forgo the fall sunshine to make a dent in it. It steamed there on the counter, flanked by baskets brimming with soft slices of fresh bread, seeming to whisper the secret of festival planners through the ages: If you feed them, they will come.
And they did. It was the first event for the united Homer Halibut Festival and Wooden Boat Festival, and on the inaugural night we joined festivity forces and welcomed our community to the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center for a movie and speaker evening featuring the almighty halibut and the ships that pursue them. Whether drawn by the prospect of talking fish, or by the savory food magic of Two Sisters Bakery, one by one the room filled with more than 70 seafood lovers and boaters, scientists, and fishermen.
International Pacific Halibut Commission took the floor to share some of the history and science behind the Commission’s work and its signature species. We ended the evening with a documentary on the North Pacific’s historic wooden halibut schooners, some still fishing after more than a century harvesting halibut. I carried an empty chowder pot back to the truck. Mission accomplished.
By the time the sun came up again, a new team had assembled for our second event, the Halibut Fest Fish Fry, held this year at the Wooden Boat Festival grounds on the Homer Spit. But before we could fry, we had to prep.
Time to engage Homer’s steadfast ecosystem of community helpers. Potato salad for 300 people? Easy. Portioning 100 pounds of halibut donated by local fishermen? No problem; Homer volunteers show up with their own fillet knives. Coal Point opened the doors to its kitchen, and our generous sponsors helped us purchase the necessary ingredients. We even discovered that halibut scientists are excellent at both ecological study and making vast amounts of coleslaw. Between our rotating prep cooks, dishwashers, food servers, fish fryers, and clean up crew—plus the generous fishermen of the North Pacific Fisheries Association and the processors that donated time and protein—the community truly showed up for the Halibut Festival.
With full bellies and a fall sunburn, we left the fish fry and headed for Alice’s. Before starting a raucous evening with the salty tunes of Rogues and Wenches, we auctioned off a suite of buoys decorated by artists from around Alaska; yet another host of generous supporters that contributed to the success of this year’s events.
Homer Halibut Festival is a celebration of this fish we love and the incredible marine ecosystem that supports them. Much as it takes a village to raise a child—or a festival for that matter—the same is certainly true for the fish we rely on and the communities we’ve built around them. Every halibut caught in the North Pacific, every business that depends upon halibut, and all the people fed by halibut, are the positive results of a complex ecosystem of species and dynamics working together.
Whether we’re talking about halibut bycatch, ocean acidification, ecosystem-based fisheries management, clean water, healthy fishing communities, or any number of other issues vital to sustaining our fisheries and fishing way of life, all roads lead back to one essential thing: a healthy ecosystem with many working parts that are valued and considered vital to the whole.
We woke Sunday to a strong southeasterly blow, but the last hours of the festival weren’t to be missed. The Kachemak Bay Running Club hosted the 2nd Annual Halibut Hustle 5K run, a loop around the harbor that had us running into a feisty head wind on the home stretch. This made a final visit to the Wooden Boat Festival grounds all the sweeter, gripping cups of coffee and standing around the fire rumbling in the large outdoor stove near the beach, the Rogues and Wenches leading us in some sea shanties to close the celebration, and bid farewell to summer. See you next year Homer, for a bigger, badder Halibut Festival.
Hannah Heimbuch is AMCC’s Homer-based Community Fisheries Organizer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following last year’s successful inaugural event, the AMCC team is looking forward to co-hosting the 2016 Homer Halibut Festival from September 8 – 11 with the Kachemak Bay Wooden Boat Society. We’ve coordinated schedules and teamed up for key events to create four days of marine festival fun!
Full event details are available at www.homerhalibutfest.org
Here’s a sampling of events throughout the weekend:
Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. — Join the Wooden Boat Festival folks at the Salty Dawg for an evening of shanties and stories.
Friday, September 9 at 6 p.m. — Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the Wooden Boat Society join forces for a reception, followed by an informative presentation on halibut ecology by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and a film about the historical wooden halibut schooners of the North Pacific.
Saturday, September 10 at 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. — Join AMCC for a community fish fry at the Wooden Boat Festival grounds. Halibut donated by local fishermen! This event is free.
Saturday September 10 at 7 p.m. — AMCC and Wooden Boat invite you to an evening soiree and fundraising event at Alice’s Champagne Palace. Enjoy our fabulous one-of-a-kind art buoy auction and the foot-stomping tunes of the Rogues and Wenches. $10 cover charge per person.
Sunday, September 11 at 10 a.m. — Cap off the weekend with another Halibut Hustle 5K Fun Run, hosted by the Kachemak Bay Running Club, which starts at Land’s End Resort. Then visit the Wooden Boat Festival grounds for more music from the Rogues and Wenches and a final day of festival fun. To register for the Halibut Hustle, please visit www.kachemakbayrunningclub.org
As many of us know, the best way to contribute to the wider health of our environment is to simply use less. Yet, life is fraught with little obstacles that make minimizing our consumption difficult. So we do our best, and we probably follow the familiar “reduce, reuse, recycle” adage when possible. But, inevitably as human beings, we still create waste. One possible contribution to reducing waste is through upcycling – a concept AMCC business members Norb Smerecki and Agi Smerecka, owners of Kettu and crafters of upcycled bags and accessories, utilize in their business. To gather further insight into their business and ethos we poised a few questions about their creative process, their perspective on upcycling/recycling, and their connection to the ocean.
To see Kettu’s current creations please visit the online store.
Are you interested in becoming a business member? Check out AMCC’s business member page.
“We love salmon. Salmon love healthy oceans. We love oceans. We are all connected.”
– Norb Smerecki and Agi Smerecka
Q: What inspired your creations and products?
A: Simple answer is Alaska. This is a great land in which raw beauty is displayed in abundance. There is so much to explore. All this open space invites one to come in and enjoy it. It is therefore easy to get inspired just by living here. When you are away from noise and chaos creativity has a tendency to storm your mind. You are influenced by natural surroundings and energized to create.
Q: Why recycle/upcycle? And how do you incorporate your business ethos of contributing to a healthy environment into your own wider life?
A: Upcycling is really an old concept, which has been practiced by mankind for a long time. Before throwing it away, look at something with a new perspective. Chances are that what was bound to become useless scrap will turn into useful treasure. Upcycling/recycling is so important because we generate way too much waste. Taking some of this stuff out of our environment and giving it another life is a win for everyone.
Our daily life includes a lot of upcycling, which happens in our sewing shop. At home we upcycle, recycle, eat organic and local foods, and spend hours enjoying outdoors. The connection with environment is ever present. When you are part of something so grand you want to do something to help it to stay that way. You want to preserve it.
Q: In your mission statement you note that part of the unique nature of your items is derived from the story of its past. What is your favorite story behind a material you use or an item you have crafted?
A: Our story begins with a couple of bike tubes, a sewing machine, and an idea. We started out sewing mainly out of bike tubes. Gradually, with time we introduced other materials and combined them into finished products. When we were doing our hybrid backpack project we fused four repurposed materials together: bike tubes, truck tube, fire hose, and wet suit. Each material had its own story. In our minds we imagined their past life. Bike tubes perhaps on a long trek on Seward Highway. Fire hose from local Homer fire station was used to put out a number of fires… brave fire fighters who used it. Truck tube had its share of heavy hauling. Maybe a hardy surfer braved cold Alaskan waters in search of the best wave while wearing this suit. This backpack will take all of its history into a new adventure wherever it will go.
Q: What is your connection to the ocean? And why do you feel stewardship of our ocean and our environment is important?
A: We can’t imagine Alaska without it’s magnificent coastline. Each morning when we open the curtains Kachemak Bay greets us with a new and fresh visual treat. We play on the local beaches. Whenever we go away we miss it immensely. The ocean sustains life. It is a home to many forms of life. The ocean is a source of valuable food. We love salmon. Salmon love healthy oceans. We love oceans. We are all connected.