If you have never experienced the feeling of truly being in a wonderland of Christmas, then it's safe to assume you didn't make it to the 16th annual Introduction to Christmas. Donna's Country & Victorian Gifts at Blazy Mall in Soldotna celebrates the holiday the first Saturday in November through the month of December. It is a Must See!
For 19 years, Donna Schwanke has owned this lovely shop and for the past 16 years each Christmas she transforms a delightful shopping experience into an amazing stroll through a holiday wonderland. Every nook and cranny is filled with a variety of Christmas items from unusual ornaments, candles, beaded garland, stockings, candles, music to lighted angels and everything in between. There are showcases with jewelry, collectibles, figurines and glass. There were wreaths, nativity scenes and Christmas trees in every room, all lavishly decorated with country and victorian ornaments. Rooms with kaleidoscopes of color sparkled out of the corner of your eye. Everywhere you looked, something shimmered. On the outskirts of the shop was a table filled with pastries and punch served from fine china and a silver tea set by the ladies only to add to the festive mood. All the ladies working with Donna were dressed in white ruffled linen dresses, looking like Santa's helpers.
Donna Schwanke and husband Roland take a breather 'til the next wave of customers.
Shoppers from Anchorage and the Valley come to this special holiday event every year. Local residents know that on the first Saturday in November, they will be at Donna's, knowing that there will be something new this year they just have to have. "Over 500 shoppers attend this event each year and it seems the crowd gets bigger and bigger," explains Donna. It was standing room only the entire day and as you passed by a table or cabinet filled with something Christmassy, you'd spot something you didn't see the first few times you passed by. Customers were in awe at all that glittered.
From country to elegant, this Introduction to Christmas was a huge success for Donna and her staff. Many weeks prior to this event, Donna and her staff work days and nights sorting and arranging, and preparing for this transition.
Customers were plentiful as standing room only made shopping all the more exciting.
As the day gets closer, sections of the shop are closed off to begin the decorating. Not to be seen by customers until the big day. Each day you could pass by and see something has changed, people scurrying from here to there all the while business as usual. Then, all of a sudden, overnight, this little quaint shop turns magical and it's obvious then. Christmas is Begun!
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