Somewhere in the central Kenai Peninsula there are folks settling down for their long winter's nap -- but it wasn't evident this weekend as shopping, a craft fair and Christmas Comes to Kenai events had just about every creature stirring.
Many families were taking part in long-standing traditions, while others were enjoying the festivities for the first time.
"This is our first time doing it -- she's really excited," said Chelaine Rabon of Kenai as she stepped into line with her daughter, Serenity, age 3, to visit with Santa Claus at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center Friday morning. Rabon serendipitously bumped into other family members while waiting line, bringing even more excitement for her daughter.
Just behind Rabon, Karolee Hansen, a longtime area resident, was waiting in line with her grandchildren, Annika and Bjorn Nilsson, visiting from Seward.
"They come all the way to see Santa," Hansen said. "This is really fun, and they've come every year, for the last eight years. ... It's so special."
Annika, 6, planned to ask for an "American Girl doll, and it's going to have red hair, and I want it to come with braces."
Bjorn, 8, said, "I'm going to wish for a remote-control snowmachine."
Also in line, Felicia Davisson of Nikiski was telling her sons, Tristan, 5, and Tatin, 3, they could ask for one thing. Tristan's one thing was impressive: "A monster truck that has no batteries that can go in the bathtub that has a boat and a trailer, too."
Tatin echoed his brother's wish -- a truck and a trailer and boat.
Felicia Davisson said she was carrying on a family tradition.
"I did it when I was younger -- I grew up here," she said. "My parents used to bring us when it was over at the chamber."
Assisting Santa this year were members of the Kenai Christian Church youth group. Mary-Pat Mills said she didn't need any special training to be an elf, she just got there early to pick out her outfit -- green and red tunic, and pointy-toed elf shoes.
"I'm enjoying it a lot," Mills said of the festive atmosphere, adding that she came to see Santa when she was a younger elf. "Back then it was outside. I remember doing that with all my siblings, so it's cool to be an elf here."
Many people capped a day of shopping and other activities by taking in the annual Electric Light Parade and fireworks. Sarah and Jan Slegers of Soldotna were there with their 1-year-old son, Jacob. They said they always come for the fireworks, but this year was their first time watching the parade.
Sarah said Jacob was mesmerized by all the lights, especially those on the huge Christmas tree outside the Kenai Chamber of Commerce cabin.
"We got in the front row for the Electric Light Parade. He liked the fire truck ... and he loves the bonfire," Jan said as they waited for the fireworks to start. "Watching him, seeing it through his eyes -- this would have been a cool thing to grow up with."
Sarah said that she did get to grow up with it all, having been raised in the area.
"We came, sat on Santa's lap and watched the fireworks every year," she said. "It's been a while, but now that we have (a child) of our own, we're coming back."
For Summer Dallman, getting to Friday's fireworks was a marathon, as she started her day with a 3:30 a.m. shopping excursion. She said she took it easy on the bank account, "only" spending about $250, but said her shopping companion "went to town."
She was at the parade, bonfire and fireworks for the first time, but said it wouldn't be her last.
"Absolutely," she said when asked if she'd do it again next year. "I'm all about this -- I love the bonfire and the music."
Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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