Editor's Note: This article was edited for spelling errors.
Most cities in the United States have to wait until New Year’s Eve for a fireworks show held in sub-zero temperatures, but Kenai gets to do it in November.
Friday’s Christmas Comes to Kenai day of events started in temperatures well below zero and changed little as Santa arrived in town shortly before 11 a.m. in the basket of a Kenai Fire Department ladder truck to hear the wishes of Central Peninsula children gathered and waiting at the Kenai Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center.
There, Santa’s elves scurried up and down a long-line of bundled children and doting parents that stretched out through the center’s Arctic doorway, down the sidewalk into the parking lot delivering hot drinks and encouragement. Higher-ranking elves helped kids onto Santa’s lap to have a picture taken and whisper into his ear their wants for the year. Santa’s elves had gift bags for each child as they left the visitor’s center through a gauntlet of free cookies and hot chocolate.
As Santa continued his good works into the noon hour, runners hopped up and down like race-ready sled dogs at the starting line of the third annual Tustumena 200 Turkey Trot, which launched and finished at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The trot was run in 10-kilometer and 5-kilometer lengths with 14 runners and 18 runners signed up respectively. Race registrar Rhonda McCormick said she expected at least 20 additional runners to register in the last minutes before the start.
Dressed in less-than-Arctic gear, runners started off fresh in negative 2-degree weather at high noon for the roadside trail along Kalifornsky Beach Road. Nearly and hour later, returning from the route that looped through Central Peninsula College and back to the sports center, runners’ faces and clothing were coated in hoar frost born from exertion. Water stations along the way served “warm” water.
Later in the day as police blocked off sections of Frontage Road for the evening parade, kids continued to play on piles of snow cleared from the streets and parking lots of Old Town Kenai. People sat in parallel lines of cars with engines running while waiting for the reappearance of Santa during the Electric Lights Parade.
On one corner a woman sat in a lawn chair with family in the more traditional parade viewing style as temperatures returned to below zero for the parade and following fireworks show. A seven-year transplant from the second largest state in the Union Sheffany Poage said she doesn’t like to watch parades from a car. “This Texan wants to be 100 percent Alaskan,” Poage said.
Reach Greg Skinner at firstname.lastname@example.org