Peggy Arness could be said to be the City of Kenai's spirit of Christmas.
That's right. The 85-year-old North Kenai resident was the originator of the Christmas Comes to Kenai celebration when she was director of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce 33 years ago.
"We were talking about some way at the time to get people to come to Kenai and shop and something to kind of start their Christmas spirit after Thanksgiving," she said.
And while the very first Christmas Comes to Kenai was more than three decades ago, Arness said she could remember it exactly because of a photograph she still has. It is of her first grandchild sitting on her desk at the small Kenai Chamber of Commerce cabin while children cycled through to see Santa Claus and collect candy canes.
"I'm really pleased the tradition has continued and grown and has had things added to it," she said.
The idea behind Christmas Comes to Kenai originally was to have the movie theater show a seasonal movie for children so "parents could shop while children were at the movie," Arness said.
And that tradition returns this year with the United Methodist Church in Kenai showing the movie, "Polar Express," from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday for children who get a special pass from Santa Claus, said Carol Bannock, director of the Kenai chamber.
Bannock said there is a lot more in store for the Christmas Comes to Kenai event, including some new and different offerings, like a hardhat tour of the new Stanley Ford building in Kenai from 3 to 4 p.m. Friday.
She said the theme for this year's event is "Just Believe," inspired by the "Polar Express" movie.
And those who do believe will get special treats when they go and visit Santa Friday morning when he arrives by fire truck at the Kenai Visitors Center.
"The first 100 children who visit Santa get a free movie pass," Bannock said. "The second 50 children will receive a coupon to go the Fancy Pants to do a free craft that day."
Fancy Pants is a new craft and creation store in Kenai. Bannock said the craft that day will be a snowman wearing skis.
Those who get their picture taken with Santa will also be able to pick up free copies of the photographs at Safeway the next week, Bannock said.
There will also be the usual Christmas Comes to Kenai attractions, like candy canes, hot chocolate, fireworks and the electric lights parade on Frontage Road Friday evening.
"This is a Norman Rockwell event that is celebrated and enjoyed by the whole community," she said. "We just love that we kick off Christmas the day after Thanksgiving in Kenai."
This year, Bannock asked Arness to light the Christmas tree at the official lighting Friday evening.
"I have never done it before," Arness said, surmising that she will just have to flip a switch. "It will be fun. I'm hoping that my grandson will go with me."
10 a.m. -- Kenai Arts Guild Craft Fair at Kenai Central High School
11 a.m. -- Charity Christmas tree auction at Kenai Visitors Center
11 a.m. -- Santa arrives on a Kenai Fire truck at Kenai Visitor's Center where the first 100 children (age 6-12) will receive a movie pass to see "Polar Express" the next 50 will receive a coupon to make a craft at Fancy Pants
1 to 2 p.m. -- Open skate at The ConocoPhillips multi-purpose facility
2 to 4 p.m. -- Movie "Polar Express" (must have a pass from Santa) at the United Methodist Church in Kenai
2:30 to 3 p.m. -- Family puppet show and story time at Kenai Christian Church
3 to 4 p.m. -- Hard Hat Tours at the new Stanley Ford
6 p.m. -- Electric Lights Parade on Frontage Road in Kenai
6:45 p.m. -- Lighting of the Official Kenai Christmas tree at the Kenai Kabin sponsored by Christmas Decor
7 p.m. -- Bonfire and caroling
7:30 p.m. -- Grand finale fireworks display sponsored by the City of Kenai and Stanley Ford
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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