With lots of “Candy Cane Wishes and Sugarplum Dreams” the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center did a superb job of hosting the traditional Christmas Comes to Kenai festivities on the day after Thanksgiving. According to executive director Johna Beech it might have been one of the largest turn outs ever, “from the moment Santa arrived via the Kenai Fire Department until the last Firework was launched hundreds of people were everywhere throughout the city. Children were lined up at the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center well be for the 11am arrival of Santa. Peggy Arness, the first Executive Director of the Kenai Chamber, was in attendance handing out cocoa and cookies to the waiting youth. She told me of one year, before the Kenai Visitor Center was built, when she was standing on the deck of Moose Meat John’s Cabin in her snowsuit handing out cookies to the kids. Working along side her, hearing her stories and seeing the excitement on her face when Santa arrived was such a treat for me, not only as the current E.D., but as a resident of Kenai because Peggy is truly a local legend. Meanwhile, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter was inside greeting the children and their folks that were patiently waiting their turn on Santa’s lap. She would lead them off with Christmas Carols, talking with the children, and passing out the free books donated by the Imagination Library. The mayor and the books were a great hit!
Once the children had their visit with Santa, our Kenai Middle School Elves handed them grab bags filled with Christmas trinkets which were generously donated by XTO Energy. Most of the kids couldn’t wait to see what were in the bags and would take a seat just two or three steps away from Santa,” said Beech.
At 2:00pm runners started lining up for the 2nd Annual T200 Turkey Trot with Santa not showing nearly a cramp as he led the 53 runners for the first 100 yards or so then turning the lead over to James Tangaro of Tesoro when his boots became a bit slick. According race organizers the T-200 fundraising tradition of feeding the family one day and running it off the next is becoming increasingly popular. Defending his inaugural Turkey Trot championship was James Tangaro while his future son-in-law Michael Abrahamsen of Bozeman, Montana wisely decided to run the 5k and finished second to Darik Pickerel.
Those wanting the Black Friday experience of large crowds and great bargains found them at the 13th Annual Peninsula Art Guild Arts & Crafts fair at KCHS where hundreds visited 160 some local vendors who displayed their creations. One booth featured unique eggshell carvings by Twyla Showalter of Sterling. “I learned from a friend mine in Arkansas while I was on vacation and she got me hooked on the art form. My daughter draws the designs on the shells and whatever she draws I can carve out. While they make great holiday décor, they are beautiful and are used year round and for many occasions many folks have me do baby’s first Christmas on the back with the year and name engraved,” said Showalter who can be reached at 262-1900. Many other unique items were available from ancient style scrimshaw by Brian Burns to hand crafted wooden toys large and small by Randall Pippin of Kenai.
Then at 6pm, the Kenai Police Department blocked off Frontage Road for the Electric Light Parade and those waited on the cold, clear moonlit night were not disappointed. And after the Grinch showed up, Santa followed again a top the KFD ladder truck to assure that no one would steal this Christmas from Kenai. The winners of this year's Electric Light Parade was indeed the Grinch by Alaska Engineered Truss and taking both the Commercial and overall float competition. The best organization float was the electric snow flake entered by CARTS, and the youth float award went to Kenai Peninsula Pop Warner football. Following the parade a brilliant bonfire warmed those waiting the wild array of fireworks sponsored by the City of Kenai and Stanley Ford. “We would like to again thank all our sponsors: Kenai Catering for the cookies, Kenai Senior Center, Wal-Mart, Three Bears, Charlotte's, Safeway, & IGA, McDonald’s and the Kenai Lions for the Hot Cocoa and of course a special thanks to Jolly Old St. Laurie Bookey and elves Jessica & Alden Bookey, Michelle Teates, Chris Heinrich and the KCCVC Staff and Board of Directors who really fill us all with the giving spirit of the holidays,” added Beech.