Santa Claus rings in the season as he arrives at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center Friday.
Photo by Will Morrow
By all accounts Grantland Gallion would appear to be a normal 5-year-old. But while other kids asked Santa for the latest video game or the newest Barbie the day after Thanksgiving, Grantland, dressed in a red velvet suit trimmed with white fur, simply wanted to be Santa.
"I wanted a real live reindeer," he said. "I'd like to be a real Santa. I really want a reindeer in a real sled."
Some adults might chalk Grantland's attitude up to childish enthusiasm, but Stephanie Gallion, Grantland's mother, insists that her son means every word he says. Last year, Gallion said her pint-sized Saint Nick woke up early the Sunday before Christmas, stuffed his toys in a sack, went to church and distributed them amongst his friends. Grantland wants to do it again this year too, his mother said.
"We didn't know that he really meant it," she said. "He does have a tender heart and spirit. He's obsessed with Santa, with everything about Santa."
The line at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center wound out the conference room, through the lobby and onto the sidewalk around 11:20 a.m. on Friday. Parents bundled up their kids, grabbed the digital camera and nibbled on cookies and hot chocolate until the head elf himself rode a Kenai fire truck up to the entrance. Saint Nick stepped out of his ladder and greeted each boy and girl with a hug before taking his seat before a Christmas tree in the conference room.
For the youngsters, Santa's appearance was the highlight of this year's Christmas Comes to Kenai, while many of the adults fancied the Holiday Craft Fair held at Kenai Central High School. When their kids were finished with Santa, many families headed over to the cafeteria at KCHS to finger through skeins of yarn, sample dips and sniff organic herbs and spices.
"What better (thing) is there to do, everybody's smiling," said Dagmar Mayer, a member of the Kenai Performers. Mayer donned gold pants, a red soldier's jacket and cap and patrolled KCHS corridors doling out candy canes to passersby. "I get to see all the wonderful people, it's almost like a family reunion."
Reunion with old friends is what keeps Anita Necessary after four years to hand out cookies and hot cocoa at the visitors center. Necessary and her assistant, Bryce Horton, set up the cookie table at 10:30 a.m., giving out almost 250 cookies fresh baked by the seniors at the Senior Center until everyone left later that day. Necessary said she can remember when Harry Gaines was Santa and sat in front of the Chamber of Commerce greeting kids while the line wound down the street.
"I get to see people I don't see the rest of the year," she said. "I know most of them and I get to visit and see how the kids are growing."
Roxy Mills, owner of Foxy Roxy Herbal Products in Soldotna, hopes this year's bazaar will help her business grow. After calling Bingo for the Peninsula Oilers, Mills said she was interested in doing some work from home and was really tired of the government putting chemicals into the food people eat. She said she started making bath teas and hair rinses and moved her way to spices, teas, sachets and other herbal remedies.
"Everyone's starting to go more organic and I enjoy doing it," she said, adding that she grinds her own herbs and blends them together herself.
Mary Mills, Roxy's sister, said so far Roxy has showcased her products at the Soldotna Sports Center. The bazaar is her second showing. Ultimately, Mills said her sister would like to have a storefront in Soldotna and is bent on working up an online catalog.
"She's hoping (it will be) a good business so she can continue working from home," Mills said.
Marcia Heinrich took her kids to see Santa when they were little, almost 35 years ago. This year, she's back again with her grandkids and said she can remember when Santa used to drop in by helicopter.
"It's a real blessing for all the kids in the community," she said, as she checked the time for her 7-year-old grandson, Eli. "(It gives) them joy to see Santa bring the Christmas spirit into town."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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