The line ran out the door of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Friday. It was thick with children and parents — all waiting for Santa.
“I want a rocking robot horsey that can carry my weight,” 5-year-old Aaliyah Bookey said.
It was the Kenai resident’s second time waiting with her mom and sister to see Santa in the city’s Christmas Comes to Kenai celebrations; though she was more excited to see his helpers.
“I get to see his funny elf,” she said, giggling. “He has pointy ears.”
Further in the line that wound throughout the visitor center, with parents holding their children’s winter jackets and children holding half eaten candy canes, Mayor Pat Porter handed out more candy, asking children want they want for Christmas.
“I want a hamster,” 6-year-old Makenna McAlpin said, “and if he can’t get me a hamster I want an American Girl Doll.”
Morgan McAlpin, 3, waited next to her sister.
Her sister, of Kenai, had seen Santa in past years during the city’s celebrations, but it was Morgan McAlpin’s first time. She was nervous, said her father, standing next to her.
She said she wanted a Play-Doh Doggy.
Later that night, hundreds of people lined Frontage Road. Blues and reds and greens and yellows — all varieties of colors — flashed off the faces of people from Kasilof, Nikiski, Soldotna, Sterling and Kenai at the Electric Lights Parade.
“Look,” said a child. “Here comes Santa.”
Riding in the arm of a fire truck, Santa rounded a corner.
“Merry Christmas,” he said. “Merry Christmas. Ho-ho-ho.”
Elsewhere in the procession, 8-year-old Jillian Gagnon and 6-year-old Kylee Verkuilen rode on a trailer strung with Christmas lights.
Both the girls wore red and green suits with pointy hats. They were Santa’s helper elves, they said, and they were assembling football helmets on a table with a rubber mallet, a paint brush, a can of paint and a caulking gun.
“I’m making the helmets for all the little kids — and the big ones,” said Verkuilen, of Kenai.
Gagnon, of Soldotna, said she was looking forward to the fireworks, especially the pink ones.
Pink was also Verkuilen’s favorite color of firework, she said.
“I really think that’s cool,” she said. “And I like it when it explodes.”
Kenai resident Pat Gercaci said the fire works are a serious ordeal.
“Oh yeah, they’re big,” he said. “Big, big stuff. Like the explosive-kind ‘big.’”
He was standing with his family away from the towering bonfire in the visitor center lawn. Hundreds of people were gathered around the fire, and Christmas music played over speakers.
“I’ve been coming for years,” Gercaci said.
He said the fireworks shoot off in the baseball fields two streets up, but you can see them miles away in the sky.
Next to him, toddlers and teenagers rolled down piles of snow. Some flipped off, landing on their backs; others jumped and slid down.
Everyone was waiting. The fireworks only minutes away.
And then — pop.
And it shimmered down. A blazing green explosion. And an orange. A purple. Yellow. Green. Red.
“Awesome,” someone said. “Wow,” another said. “Spectacular.”
The air smelled of black powder, and smoke drifted low across the snow.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” said Scott Huff, standing with his family.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.