Saint Nicholas and firefighters have a lot of similarities. Both wear unusual hats, have suspenders and go around in big black boots. This year, they have one more thing in common -- they'll both be riding fire engines.
Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus is coming to town on a Kenai Fire Department truck.
Kris Kringle traditionally arrives in town each year in various modes of carriage, such as dog sled or snowmachine, but with bare pavement covered in rain this year, he needed a different ride.
It's all part of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce's annual "Christmas Comes To Kenai" day of celebration on Friday.
According to chamber director Amy Anderson, Old Saint Nick will arrive at the chamber log cabin near the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center at 11:30 a.m. to meet the children and hear their Christmas wish lists.
While standing in line to see the jolly old elf, children will be treated to hot chocolate and cookies.
A special treat this year will be the giveaway of tickets to see the feature film "Rugrats in Paris," at the Kambe Theater.
"We'll be giving out free passes for a special viewing on Saturday at 11 a.m. to the first 150 kids," Anderson said.
She said free tickets will be limited to two per family, though parents can purchase more if they have more children.
The cookies, provided by seniors at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center, probably won't have to be rationed the same way.
Kelly Kelso, director of the senior center, said she and the seniors are shooting to bake 310 dozen, or 3,720 cookies.
"It is a lot of cookies," she said. "Our ovens are really going. The seniors just bake whatever they want."
Kelso said the cookie selection includes such old favorites as chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal.
"There's also a special buttery Rice Krispie thing," she said.
To make 310 dozen cookies, Kelso said, the seniors are using approximately 2,000 cups of flour. She could not estimate the amount of sugar needed.
"The seniors do enjoy this," she said. "They really enjoy giving back to the community. They really like having that opportunity because the city and community have given so much to them."
Kelso added that the senior center will be open on Thanksgiving Day, and will be serving a traditional holiday meal with turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes provided by Agrium.
"We have quite a few people turn up for that," she said. "Holidays are the times seniors need us most."
Back at the chamber headquarters, Merrill Sikorski will host the broadcast of "Life on the Kenai Live," at 1 p.m. Anderson said folks are welcome to drop by and share their favorite Christmas stories and memories with the listeners. The program will be heard on KSRM 920 AM.
Early Friday evening, the annual Electric Light Parade will begin at 6 p.m. This year the parade route is reversed, that is, it will start in front of Paradisos Restaurant, travel down Frontage Road, and end near Leif Hansen Memorial Park.
"To make a long story short, we did it for safety reasons to reduce congestion at the intersection in front of the (chamber) cabin," Anderson said.
The Kenai senior center is entering a float that has a "Frosty the Snowman Sr." theme. The 10-foot tall snowman will be draped in 1,500 lights. Last year's grand prize winners, Lynden Transport and Fred Meyer, also are returning with a combined float.
"It's going to be good. It's even a little more elaborate than last year," said Fred Meyer store director Terry Rahlfs. "We're putting a lot of effort into it. We've had crews between five and a dozen working on it."
Rahlfs said the theme is "Santa comes to Alaska," but wouldn't give away too many details.
"It has a lot of lights and moving reindeer, but you'll have to come down to the parade to see it," he said.
"It's going to be neat."
Anderson said the parade will have about 10 floats this year.
"We usually have 10 to 14," she said. "We're down because a lot of people usually like to bring their sleds, but we don't have any snow this year."
Parade spectators will want to hurry back to the vicinity of the chamber cabin, as the bonfire and official Christmas tree lighting will take place at 7 p.m. After that, the grand finale fireworks will be lit off.
"It's going to be somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m.," Anderson said.
The fireworks display is being produced by Fire Control Systems of Nikiski again this year. The company, which sells and services fire suppression systems, is again donating its time and labor to prepare and produce the show.
Company spokesperson Rachele Martin said this year's show should be similar to last year's.
With the lack of snow on the ground this year, Martin said, spectators should be especially careful not to venture onto the city softball fields at the south end of the airport runway, where the fireworks remains land.
"Usually we have a snow berm to keep people away, but this year it may be a little problem keeping them back," Martin said.
She said the display should last about 30 to 45 minutes, with a grand finale flourish at the end to bring to a close this year's Christmas Comes To Kenai.
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