Soldotna to light up town

Posted: Friday, December 09, 2005

The many faces of family, Santa on a fire truck, carols in sign language, free sleigh rides and a bag of goodies for every child. Not bad for a Friday night in Soldotna.

Today, the city will light its Christmas tree. If Mayor Dave Carey had his way, the lights of the tree would shine on photos of every family in what he calls “the Greater Soldotna Family,” posted on Parker Park’s fence.

“Every single person that comes into Soldotna is part of the greater Soldotna family,” Carey said of the event’s theme. “My goal is always a large goal.”

The theme grew out of several considerations. Carey was a social studies teacher until last year, and since 2001 the fence decoration has been a class project focusing on military members, civil servants and community.

This year, Carey needed extra help from the Soldotna Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and many others to pull off the event.

Losing a nephew to a car crash last year about two weeks before Christmas also factored into the decision.

“I am uniquely aware of how important family is, especially at this time of year,” Carey said.

The theme’s inclusive idea grew out of input from students at Soldotna Middle School, who pointed out that pets were absolutely part of the families. Nuclear families, extended families, school, sport, work and church families and yes, cats and dogs, deserve a place on the Parker Fence, Carey said.

“Family includes all the people we feel connected to in our community,” he said.

To that end, students in Soldotna Middle’s yearbook class traveled the halls Wednesday during second period taking pictures of their school “family.”

“We just think of our whole building as a family,” explained SMS Principal Sharon Moock. “Our pictures turned out pretty cool, I thought.”

Students were finishing the lamination process as she spoke. The student council, which Carey advises, posted the photos Thursday afternoon. Photos also came from Skyview and city hall, where families dropped off their pictures.

SMS’s activity night, which features a DJ, dancing and other activities in the school gym once every two weeks on a Friday evening, was moved to 3 p.m. today so students could walk to the lighting ceremony afterward.

After the lighting at 6 p.m., Santa Claus will arrive via fire truck. Kids can sit with Santa for free and have their picture taken for $1, all the while taking in Christmas tunes by the Victorian Carolers and the song-and-dance group the Hula Troop. Each Hula Troop number is translated into sign language.

The idea of posting pictures was improvised in 2001 for the first event because there was too much snow to get to the trees. Students could reach the fence, so the fence got the decoration.

This year’s warm weather called for some improvising of a different sort.

“They’ll have wheels now,” Michelle Glaves, chamber executive director, said of the two buggies used for the free sleigh rides.

Every year, the event seems to grow in size, Glaves said, and this year’s schedule has hopes high for a big turn out. The kid count last year was 150, and Glaves said they plan on 200 this year.

“We have a lot more sponsors this year,” Glaves said. “That means every child will get a bag of goodies.”

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