Dane Myers remembers attending Christmas Comes to Kenai when he was a kid. When he and his wife Bee moved back to Kenai last year, they wanted to make sure Friday’s festivities were included in their yearly rituals.
“We turned it into one of our family traditions,” Dane said.
Now 28, he saw the joy in his two sons’ eyes as they met the one and only Santa Claus and later as their eyes met the brightly shining lights of the annual parade, illuminating the cold November air. Those are memories Dane still holds close from his youth.
“It’s cool to see how they’re seeing things the same way I did,” Dane said. “And partake in some of the fun things I did as a kid.”
Dane, his wife Bee, and their two sons Owen, 3, and Oliver, 4, were seeking warmth from the bonfire Friday night after the “Electric Lights Parade.” The parade seemed to be shorter than other years, but Myers said that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“It was short, which is good, because it was cold,” he said.
Both Owen and Oliver liked to see all the lights on the floats as they passed by. Oliver said his favorite float was the reindeer float. The Myers family was one of many who visited Santa earlier in the day, and received cookies from Anita Necessary on their way out.
“We came and saw Santa at 11 (a.m.), had some cookies, it was fun,” Dane said.
Necessary has been handing out cookies to kids along side Laurie Bookey, who hands out hot chocolate, for the last 25 years.
In other words, “forever it seems like,” Necessary said.
As children exited the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center, Necessary had to tell each child the same thing — her one rule.
“Don’t touch the cookies, point to which one you want and I will hand it to you,” she said over-and-over. “I’d like to say something unique every time, but you can’t let them touch the cookies — for safety sake.”
Being apart of Friday’s activities is tradition for both Bookey and Necessary.
“People come here I never get to see,” Necessary said. “And I’m a kid person.”
Bookey talked about an instance where a parent told her she used to give her cookies and hot chocolate when she was a kid. Bookey said she didn’t know if that was good or bad.
“She told me, ‘Oh, no, every time I saw you, that’s what I would think about,’” Bookey said. “I said, ‘Oh, well, that’s good memories then.’”
Bookey said she gets a warm feeling when she sees those kids bring their families to have the same experience.
“When they got older and would bring their kids,” Bookey said. “It was nice to be able to have a good impact on people.”
Santa was busy Friday morning taking requests from the little ones.
Jayden Stuyvesant, 3, said he asked Santa for a “Big Transformer Bumblebee.”
Jayden’s parents, Seth and Heather, said they attend the festivities every year before they put up Christmas decorations.
Aaron and Amber Dodd brought their son Wyatt, 1, and their niece, Solana, 3, to meet Santa. Solana had to think for a few minutes before she knew what she was going to ask Santa for.
“Some Christmas candy from Santa, and some new dolls with a bottle,” she said with the help from her aunt.
Rory Hoeldt brought his son Caleb to meet Santa. Caleb had one request — a gingerbread house. Hoeldt said it was first time he had attended the morning’s activities.
“We usually go to the parade and (whatnot),” he said.
Friday night, as the glow from the parade floats lit up Frontage Road, many sought warmth from the bonfire on the lawn of the visitors center. The temperature was in the single digits.
“I’m from California, so this is thickening my blood,” Bee Myers said with laugh, taking comfort in her thick winter coat.