More lifetime holiday memories were made this year as the day after Thanksgiving, known across the nation as “Black Friday,” but on the Peninsula known as “Christmas Comes to Kenai” provided a multitude of festive events and shopping opportunities that only happen on that special Friday. After early morning “door busters” at local stores. the Kenai Fine Arts Guild opened their 26th Annual Craft Fair at Kenai Central High School where according to Shauna Thornton, president of the board for the Arts Guild more than 2,000 shoppers visited over 150 vendors that displayed only hand crafted items made locally, “We look forward to it every year and this year we had everything from local honey to hand spun yarn from Peninsula sheep, metal crafts, wood crafts, stone crafts, carved egg shells, hand crafted wooden toys and items that become family heirlooms,” said Thorton.
Then at 11:00am with mercury dipping below zero families lined up with their little ones to welcome the arrival of the Jolly Ol’ Elf himself Santa Claus who arrived atop the All America City Kenai Fire Department ladder truck. “Santa saw about 250 children before he had to leave and all the kids who braved the cold were rewarded with hot cocoa from Cocoa Queen Laura Bookey and past Chamber executive director Peggy Arness and homemade cookies from Anita Necessary. Bookey filtered the kids out of the cold and into the Kenai Visitor Center to wait in line for their moment with Santa. Once the kids read their letters or whispered their list to St Nick, one of our Elves gave then grab bags, Sponsored by XTO Energy. Each bag had 2 toys, gloves and a candy cane provided by Peterkin Distribution,” reported Johna Beech, Kenai Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center executive director.
At noon some thirty runners braved the cold temperatures with their running shoes on for the 3rd running of the Tustumena 200 Turkey Trot 5K and 10K run. Ironically there were more runners entered in the 10K than the 5 and finishing 1st in the 10K was a frosty Sean Goff, “The run afterwards gave me more incentive to eat during Thanksgiving,” laughed Goff when asked why he was motivated to enter the long cold run, “It takes shallow breathing and you can feel the cold in your lungs, but the traction wasn’t bad at all,” he added. Taking the 5K for the second year was Jordan Theisen with his twin brother second only a half step off Jordan’s pace. Moira Pyhala, Skyview Rotary Interact Club president helped organize and put the race on, “Our Interact Club plans to volunteer for international service in a foreign country this year and the proceeds from the race will help us do that as well as support the Tustumena sled dog race,” said Pyhala.
At the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska “Thirty-one” independent director Sarah Douthit organized the third Black Friday bizarre for in-home businesses, “While many of these items are available on- line I love to give folks an opportunity to see them, touch them and see how big they are in real life and have the social interaction with a consultant running their business locally out of their homes. I took the initiative 3 years ago to give in-home businesses a Black Friday opportunity and today we have some 32 independent vendors here,” Douthit told the Dispatch.
The evening kicked off with Kenai Mayor Pat Porter lighting the tree outside the Kenai Chamber Cabin, the folks gathered around the bonfire outside the Kenai Chamber Cabin and lined up along Frontage Rd. for the traditional Electric Light parade. “We had four entries in the Electric Lights Parade that braved the temps, so everyone is a winner this year. The KCHS Drumline is always a crowd favorite and did not disappoint this year.
Unocal Retirees manned the bonfire for the waiting masses and the Kenai Lions handed out free Cocoa provided by McDonald’s,” added Beech. Following the parade at 7:30 on the dot, the Grand Firework show, sponsored by Stanley Ford and the City of Kenai, began. “We had 20 minutes of gasps, ooohs and ahhhhs, that could be heard around the bonfire with kids yelling ‘That’s my favorite!’ and ‘Very cool!” because it was way below zero by then, but the synched music was everywhere coming from the KSRM radio group over radios in cars and trucks it really made the show ‘Very Cool!’ really and I so appreciate all the staff, volunteers and sponsors who made this great Christmas Comes to Kenai! Remember to keep shopping locally everyone,” said Beech.