Known throughout the world for its stunning natural landscapes, diversity of wildlife, and sheer amount of outdoor activities, Homer, Alaska, is the perfect destination for your next big excursion. The history of the area dates back to the native population that lived sustainably for thousands of years before any other settlers found the area. In the 18th century, Russian explorers favored the area due to its fur producing animals and incredible fishing (for which the area has become famous). The 19th century brought coal mining to the region and a small town was established where Homer now resides. In 1896, Homer Pennock and the Alaska Gold Mining Company came to town. Even though he only stayed a year, the town was named after him due to his effect on the community. The 20th century saw a decline in the coal industry, and soon tourism, sport fishing, and hunting became the primary industries in the area.
Known as the “Halibut Capital of the World” you’ll find ample locations and opportunities to catch halibut, salmon, pollack, flounder and more. While the fishing in Homer is world famous, this community of over 5,000 people has more than enough non-fishing activities to fill any vacation. The outdoors are stunning in Homer and the surrounding area. From dense forests and mountain peaks, to bays, rivers and streams, the area is perfect for a slew of fun-filled outdoor activities. Homer and Kachemak Bay also have some wonderful restaurants to visit. They feature delicious seafood dishes as well as just about any cuisine you can imagine. The arts and entertainment scene is growing and you can experience it at art shows, galleries, and live entertainment venues. Unique shops are right in town giving you the chance to purchase great mementos of your getaway.
Homer is a community that loves to gather and celebrate. In fact, one of the best times to visit is during one of their great local events like the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival. Regardless if you're traveling with the family, friends, or your special someone, it’s a unique and fun event to experience. This is the largest wildlife-themed festival in the state, with over 100 activities and events to choose from. Whether you're on a remote boat excursion checking out wildlife or you're taking the kids to the junior program, there is something here for all ages and levels of adventure seeking. Local restaurants will be opening their doors for the year during the festival, so you’ll also get to enjoy some great local food. Gather the family and head to beautiful Homer for a fun experience that you won't soon forget. We got the chance to interview Robbi Mixon, Coordinator of the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, to talk about this unique event.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.
RM: This will be the 24th year of the festival. We usually average around 900-1,000 registrants for the event. We have a variety of folks that come to the festival including families, singles, couples and groups of friends. We have an extensive Junior Birder Program that attracts families. There is truly something for everyone at the festival. Even the non-birders can enjoy art galleries, museums, fishing and shopping.
RAL: What makes the festival unique?
RM: We are the largest wildlife festival in the state. The ease of accessibility to Homer (fly or drive from Anchorage) coupled with the beauty of Kachemak Bay make it an ideal location for a migratory birding festival. Homer is a foodie town, and features some of the best restaurants in Alaska. We also have some amazing local artists who we help showcase. Festival speaking, as I mentioned, our Junior Birder program is one of the best and most comprehensive around. We offer over 100 events, some of which include birding by fat bike or stand-up paddle board, boating trips, educational talks, and workshops with our Keynote Speakers.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event?
RM: We will have over 100 activities to choose from! Some are "free" with registration, others are fee-based and range in price from $5 to $295 ($295 for the remote boat excursion). All the trips/talks are led by local and regional guides who have a wealth of experience in this area.
This year we have three keynote speakers: Sharon Stiteler, Kevin Karlson, and Dale Rosselet. They will also be offering a variety of talks and workshops.
Sharon's workshops- Smartphone Birding and Smartphone Digiscoping
Kevin/Dale workshops- Indoor Photography Workshop and Shorebirding by Impression
There will be some amazing food options to choose from, from sushi (Wasabi's) to seafood and local produce (Little Mermaid, Two Sister's Bakery). Most seasonal restaurants open their doors for the year during Shorebird weekend.
The environment of the festival varies depending of the weather. The temperature could be in the 70’s with sun, or it could be snow flurries; it's up in the air, but no matter what the weather is like, Kachemak Bay is beautiful! You’ll experience glaciers, snow capped peaks, Kachemak Bay, foothills in Homer, wooded trails, and some of the friendliest folks around.
RAL: What can attendees expect to find for local lodging.
RM: Please follow this link to our "Bird House, Bird Feed" listings (near bottom of page). These are specific festival sponsors who have offered discounts or specials for festival attendees. In general, Homer offers a wide variety of lodging choices including hotels, cabin rentals, and B& B’s, most with fabulous views!
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
RM: The Chamber of Commerce recently did an economic impact study and found that the festival brings in over $500K to the local economy. The festival comes at the time of year when the community is getting geared up for a high volume of tourists. It is the perfect time for the local activities, restaurants, and retailers to be fully staffed and ready for the summer season.
RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?
RM: The event supports education and appreciation for the natural environment, in a sustainable way. With so many of Alaska's economic activities being extraction based, the festival offers an alternative way of enjoying Alaska. While not highly profitable, the festival also supports all the local businesses and services that visitors use during their stay. Often, visitors extend their stays beyond the festival, visiting other areas in Alaska too.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
RM: Any excuse to come visit Homer and Kachemak Bay is a good one! The festival caters to all birding levels - absolute beginner to advanced. With a plethora of dining, entertainment, spas and accommodation options, there is something for every budget as well. Its very easy to navigate the town, and the sweeping glacier/volcano/mountain/bay landscape is unbeatable. Homer is an outdoor enthusiast's dream, as well as perfect location for photographers.
For more information about the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, please visit their website.