Hundreds gathered in Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday for the annual Christmas in the Park celebration.
As Soldotna kicked off the holiday season, lines stretched across the park. Attendees waited for their opportunity to meet Santa Claus and enjoyed coffee, cocoa and cookies.
State Sen. Peter Micciche led the proceedings, welcoming the community to the celebration, then leading Santa to a large decorated Christmas tree for the lighting. After the tree was lit, children rushed up to see Santa, who directed them to his stable. He sat for the next two hours greeting countless children, accompanied by his reindeer and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce staff.
After meeting Santa, kids were given stockings filled with donations from local businesses.
The first show to take the main stage was the Kenai Performers’ Victorian Carolers, who sang a variety of familiar carols. Following them, College Heights Baptist Church performed a Nativity scene. That church is known for their Bethlehem recreation, which fills much of their space on Kalifornsky Beach Road most holiday seasons. That production will not be taking place this year, the show’s narrator said, but will return next December.
Families and friends looking to keep warm surrounded fire pits, while kids thew snowballs and built snow forts. Other attendees milled about around the park, enjoying the festive music and holiday cheer.
A common sentiment from attendees was appreciation for warmer weather compared to last year’s conditions. The temperature was below freezing, but wasn’t quite as close to zero degrees as in 2021.
Even an hour into the celebration, nearby parking lots were full and folks were flooding in and out. The line to see Santa, with wait times up to an hour, hadn’t gotten any shorter even as the event began to come to a close with a fireworks finale.