While the sub zero temperatures that pushed the mercury to its lowest point in the season did cause the cancellation of the hayrides scheduled for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce' annual holiday celebration held Dec. 1st, it didn't deter families from turning out by the hundreds for the big event. To the delight of children young and old, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived with sirens blaring and lights flashing from atop the Central Emergency Services (CES) big ladder truck and quickly went to their first order of business, officially lighting the living Christmas tree in front of the Soldotna station. Then as quick as wink, the Jolly Ol' Elf was inside the station where the air was filled with the aroma of hot cocoa and cookies. But Santa didn't even pause to take a taste of the free treats, and instead he went straight to his work of hearing the children's wishes. First in line was 6-year-old Brayden Hansen who was quickly joined by his younger brother and sisters. All children who sat on Santa's lap went home with a pre-holiday gift bag provided compliments of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and local sponsors.
While each child waited their turn to talk with Santa, they were entertained by Chamber volunteers who helped them with craft projects and face paintings. "This is my favorite event of the year," Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche told the Dispatch. "There are hundreds of families here and this whole celebration is a reflection of many volunteers and sponsors and it a represents the type of community that Soldotna truly is."
The Mayor along with CES Deputy Fire Marshall Brad Nelson, also took the opportunity to address some important tips to bring attention to fire safety concerns during this joyous season. To create awareness, in the hopes that it isn't a holiday marred with tragedy, the CES station has a special wreath displayed at it's location at the intersection of the Sterling Highway and Binkley Street in Soldotna. Nelson explained that the display is more than decorative, and actually has an important symbolic role as it pertains to structure fires. "It's early in season but so far we haven't had any fires since we put up the green wreath in front of the station. All the lights will stay green until there is a fire and our goal is to keep that wreath totally green this year," said Nelson.
He encourages everyone to be extra careful this time of year so that happy memories don't become sad ones, "Be conscious of the type of decorations you use, anything with an open flame - like candles or incense, should not be left unattended. Be sure not to overload an electric circuit with lights, protect the circuit with a surge protector or breaker in the event of an arcing.
Be sure outdoor lights are approved for outdoor use, and that all circuits are where children and pets can't get to them," cautioned Nelson.
In an addition to their traditional decorating contest that recognizes spectacular outdoor holiday light displays, the Soldotna Chamber will be recognizing outstanding decorations in three categories this year, which are currently open for nominations from the public. "This year we have a residential category, for anyone who has gone above and beyond lighting up your neighborhood, the business category for outside decorations, and new this year we want to encourage you to call us and nominate interior decorations that you find outstanding in our local business community," explained Glaves. The volunteer committee that handles the Chamber's "Beautification" elements of the greater Soldotna areas, suggest that people consider nominating different businesses such as medical offices, which may be adorned with festive decorations, or retail locations as well as restaurants.
The deadline for those nominations is Dec. 15th. So it is a great time to take a cue from the Chamber and "get into your neighbor's business".
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