Kenai traditions usher in holiday season

Posted: Friday, November 26, 2004

Today's "Christmas Comes to Kenai" would not be the same without the help of the Kenai Fire Department.

In fact, without them there would be no grand finale fireworks display.

The fire department oversees the fireworks to keep everyone safe and sound. James Baisden, fire marshall, said it's important to go through the licensing and permit process with the state of Alaska and to provide a safe place where people can enjoy the show.

"Everything is lined up and we're ready. We've never had any problems," Baisden said. Fire Art by Griz is fully licensed and insured, and licensed pyrotechnics are scheduled to set the fireworks off.

Griz Smith, president of Fire Art by Griz from Big Lake, said he has a remarkable show planned specially for Kenai. Every community has a certain taste for fireworks, and Kenai has a taste for noise, he said.

Smith plans a unique show for the finale of the "Christmas Comes to Kenai" event.

Smith said he has a firework called "Thunder King" for those who favor loud explosions. He packs each unique firework into a shell, the casing that holds it together.

"We have such a huge variety of shells to choose from, no two shows are alike. I try to pick shells they haven't seen before and put it together as a unique show. There will be blue rings, coco palm shells that break within the shell and bloom into a palm tree, snow geese, moose and bear shells, circles, hearts and titanium shells. It will be absolutely gorgeous," Smith said.

Spectators can expect to see a wall of flame and color. Smith also will bring fireworks that bloom into the shape of well-known planets.

"We have Pluto patterns, white star patterns, some that break into the form of Saturn, some that go zinging and zipping all over the sky like bees, and the ever present Salutes which are lots of noise, just because Kenai demands it. We give the area what they want most," Smith said.

The show won't be all about noise, however. It also will offer plenty of visual stimulation with continual color. Smith said with what he's put together, the Kenai landscape will end up with a sky full of color and what he calls "a concert in the sky."

"The hardest part of my job is making sure the show is spectacular each and every time. There is no such thing as a mediocre show. We're going to blow out all the stops," Smith said.

Safety is, of course, the number one concern for Smith and he assures his crew is a fully capable and responsible group comprised of Kenai's finest.

"All the men setting off the fireworks for the show are local men. They are the people that keep us safe, and we've never had an accident. There are good people helping to make sure we end up with ten fingers and ten toes," Smith said.

Janie Odgers, Kenai chamber director, said the fire department enjoys working with Smith.

"He does shows all over the area, and loves his job," Odgers said.

The schedule for today closely resembles those of years past. Santa will be available to visit with kids from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. People standing in line to meet Santa can enjoy hot cocoa and cookies.

Natalia Johnson, assistant chamber director, said the interest is to keep tradition with the fireworks, the parade and caroling.

The Electric Light Parade starts at 6 p.m. at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center and ends in the Kenai chamber's parking lot for final judging. Directly following the parade is the Christmas tree lighting at the Chamber Cabin, then carols sung by the Kenai Performers' Victorian Carolers and sing-a-long by the bonfire. The fireworks grand finale begins at 8 p.m.

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