It’s that time of year again. While the day after Thanksgiving is now known for sales and frantic shopping, another tradition will take place in Kenai this Friday – the annual Christmas Comes to Kenai.
Throughout the day, several activities and events will be held around town to mark the beginning of the holiday season.
The festivities kick off at the Kenai Central High School. There, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on November 28-29, the Peninsula Arts Guild will hold its annual Arts and Crafts Fair. Over 100 booths will be located throughout the school, offering a variety of goods, including hand-made arts, knitted items and other holiday decorations, while food vendors will be present to satisfy the appetites of hungry revelers.
Later in the day, Santa and his elves will take time from their busy schedule to meet with children at the Kenai Visitor and Culture Center.
“Santa is coming to town,” said Johna Beech, the President/COO of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce.
After arriving on the Kenai Fire Department’s Tower One truck at 11:00 a.m., the jolly old man and his helpers will share some snacks and hot chocolate with all those wishing to join in the festivities.
“Santa will be here until all the kids are gone. He will stay for pictures and hear wants and wishes for quite some time,” said Beech.
Why does Santa need help from a fire truck to attend? “Everyone likes (fire trucks),” said Kenai Fire Marshal Tommy Carver. “And there’s probably too much traffic.”
At 6:00 p.m., The Electric Lights Parade will make its way through town, starting at Spur View Road and ending at the Kenai Chamber Cabin Parking Lot, where spectators will be treated to hot chocolate and will be able to warm up next to a bonfire.
While attending craft fairs, meeting Santa and watching a parade make for a busy day, no Christmas Comes to Kenai would be complete without fireworks. At 7:30 p.m., a fireworks display will cap off the festive day.
“Typically, because we don’t have darkness in the summer time, we can’t do fireworks for the Fourth of July, so we do a big fireworks display (for Christmas Comes to Kenai). I don’t care how old you are – a fireworks display is always amazing,” said Beech.
Because the festivities offer a variety of activities for people, one might think that it might reduce the amount of Black Friday business around town. However, that is not the case.
“Christmas Comes to Kenai is a free event for the community, so there’s no competition with Black Friday in that aspect, and most of the people are already done with their shopping by the time Santa shows up,” said Beech.
In fact, businesses see increased traffic in stores.
“I think that it brings people in to Kenai, and they either come in before or after the actual Christmas Comes to Kenai, especially before the parade,” said Bev Egan, Store Manager at the Kenai Wal-Mart.
Christmas Comes to Kenai, which has been held for decades, looks to bring in people from all over the Peninsula in order to highlight the importance of local community.
“Our main concern is celebrating our community, keeping our people local, shopping local. You know, a lot of people want to run up to Anchorage for Black Friday, but we have a lot of really great local retail stores. And it’s anywhere from Dan’s TV all the way to Stanley Ford. You can get whatever you need in town. You don’t actually need to run off to Anchorage for any kind of stuff,” said Beech.
Reach Ian Foley at Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org