The truck bay was filled, not with trucks, but with anxious boys and girls waiting to get a turn on Santa Claus’ lap.
Santa was the man of the hour during the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration in Soldotna on Thursday, which is organized by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce with help from local businesses and community members.
Finn Williams, 3, waited for Santa to climb down from the fire truck so he could shake his hand.
“I liked meeting Santa,” Finn said. “He was nice.”
Finn’s parents, Liz and Joe of Soldotna, said that Finn was more enthralled with the fire trucks and the John Deere tractor outside more than anything.
“(Finn) liked that Santa (rode) in the fire truck,” Joe said. “That was pretty neat.”
Finn shook Santa’s hand and proceeded to tell him he wanted a “Christmas tree.”
The John Deere tractor Finn saw outside was hitched to a trailer full of hay bales. Harry Ala, of Ridgeway Farms provided hayrides along side Carol Martin of Diamond M Ranch.
“It’s kind of cool just driving it inside the city here,” Ala said. “They got us blocked off so we don’t have to fight the traffic.”
Martin said the last couple years there was a very high demand for the tractor rides.
“We double-teamed it this time so we could go faster,” Martin said. “And now there’s not a big enough crowd.”
However, Martin was certain after the wait was over to see Santa the lines for the hayrides would continue to build. However, not every kid at the station was standing in line to sit on St. Nick’s lap.
Raven Patrick, 10, and her sister Willow, 5, chose not to because they have a different way of interacting with Mr. Claus. They leave a letter out for him every Christmas Eve.
“When we make a letter, usually I tell him what I can think of what I want and I draw a picture for him,” Raven said. “Willow just draws a picture for him.”
This year, the letter will have a picture of video games on it — both sisters were hopeful to add to their collections.
“I want some new Wii games,” Raven said.
Willow had to think for a minute of what she wanted, but then was reminded by her sister that she wanted some new games for her Nintendo DSi, but apparently, that’s not all.
“Willow asks for everything — when we go into the store and see the new displays, she keeps adding to her list,” the girls’ mom, Mandi said. “Santa’s got his work cut out for him.”
Along with the letter to Santa, the girls also leave snacks. They leave milk and cookies for him, and carrots and lettuce and water for the reindeer.
“Whenever we wake up and look at it, there’s only one piece of lettuce left,” Raven said. “And the water is gone — and there’s like a crumb left of the cookies.”
Raven and Willow’s dad, Andy, said seeing people come together to celebrate the holiday spirit was his favorite part of Christmas.
“Seeing the kids happy and the outpouring of the community support for every activity,” he said.
Thursday’s event was a prime example of Andy’s thoughts. The Central Emergency Services personnel were more than willing to let the community into their workplace for the evening.
“We’re happy to let (the community) use it for whatever function is up,” CES Capt. Jack Anderson said. “And During the Holiday season, it’s always kind of fun to let everyone in to have a large space inside to gather and meet Santa Claus.
“We have a good time with it every year.”
Jason and Julie Heintz brought their two sons, Jack, 8, and Joey, 2. Jack did sit on Santa’s lap, and he had one wish — a piano, because he likes playing the piano at school.
When asked what his favorite part of Christmas was, Jack had a one-word answer.
“Presents,” he said.