Fewer people than ever before headed to Anchorage on the day after Thanksgiving to kick off their holiday shopping, according to local merchants who reported record sales activities. "It was our best year ever. People were waiting when we unlocked the door that morning! We were packed and when the Kenai Performer Carolers came I almost cried to see the kids watch them sing," said Susan Jordan, of the Fireweed Herb Garden. "There was just too much happening here at home to go anywhere else, as a matter of fact, our relatives who came down from Anchorage stayed over to see the Hooked on Kenai Christmas activities and went shopping here," said a mother of three as she and her family took the evening walk through Old Town.
Pastor Jon Walters United Methodist Church in Kenai sells raffle tickets for the quilt made by the forget-me-knot quilters
According Aud Walaszek, Elf Joy, executive director for the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, about 450 children sat on Santa's lap in the Alaskan size chair created by Scott Hanson of Sterling. That translated into nearly 2,000 when you estimate the family members that accompanied each child said Walaszek. Without a doubt it was the largest Christmas event in the cities history, said Kenai Mayor John Williams, "It's been a wonderful day. I think that the parade actually was as large as some of our smaller 4th of July parades we've had in years gone by," said Williams, adding that the weather was as warm as some of the 4th of July parades that he remembered.
Two-year-old Brenna Eubank of Kenai shares Santa's custom made Alaskan size wish list chair prepared especially for him by Scott Hanson of Sterling, as Mrs. Claus and some of Santa's huge helpers, Elf Joy, alias Aud Walaszek, and 13 year old bagpiper Andrew Karnikis
The success of the traditional Christmas Comes to Kenai celebration went far beyond the local economic impact, "It was a perfect example of community pride and team effort. When you think of the volunteer effort that it took to pull off just one float entry, then multiply that times all the events on Friday, you have a prime example of what a team effort can accomplish," said Walaszek. Mayor Williams was also impressed by the spirit that emanated from the thousands of folks that turned out for the event, "A lot people are looking for a lot of hope for the coming year, and when you see the community come together like this as a community you can feel and multiply that hope that this is going to be a great year coming up," commented Williams.
DeAnn Martin and Kelli Shuler play shepherds with living goats from the Diamond M Ranch at the living nativity scene during the Hooked on Kenai Christmas celebration
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