Santa Claus lights up the Christmas tree in front of an audience Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, at the Christmas in the Park Celebration at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Santa Claus lights up the Christmas tree in front of an audience Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, at the Christmas in the Park Celebration at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai and Soldotna adapt winter activities to COVID-19

Modifications will be made in response to growing COVID-19 case numbers

Familiar winter festivities will return to Kenai and Soldotna this year, but with some modifications in response to growing COVID-19 case numbers on the peninsula and across the state.

In Kenai, adjustments are being made to the annual Christmas Comes to Kenai event, which will take place on Nov. 27 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center. During a normal year, photos with Santa Claus would be hosted at the Kenai Visitor Center, however, the building is closed to the public through the end of the month. As a result, photos with Santa have been canceled.

All other activities will take place outdoors. This includes Santa arriving in Kenai on a fire truck at 5:30 p.m., the Kenai Performing Arts carolers at 5:30 p.m., the bonfire and electric lights parade at 6 p.m. and a fireworks display at 7 p.m.

Brittany Brown, executive director of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, said Tuesday that chamber staff will have masks available outdoors and will be encouraging groups to maintain 6 feet of distance between them.

“This is a wonderful event that can be done in a safe manner and we look forward to having the community participate to a level at which they are comfortable,” Brown said via email.

In Soldotna, Christmas in the Park has been canceled and will be replaced with an alternative event that is COVID-19 friendly. Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shanon Davis said Tuesday that the chamber applied for and received a $5,000 “Bridge Grant” from the Levitt Foundation “to do something for the community to brighten spirits during this challenging time.”

The Soldotna Shines Holiday Celebration will be held on Friday, Dec. 18 and will begin at 6 p.m. in the parking lot of the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. The drive-in event will feature drive-thru hot chocolate, sing-along carols over the radio and a drive-by appearance of Santa on a fire truck. The event will end at 7 p.m. with a fireworks display.

In Seward, plans continue for a Shop Small Weekend event scheduled for Nov. 27-30. According to Kat Sorensen, the communications director for the Seward Chamber of Commerce, the online component of the event is what they are focusing on.

The online component, called “Cyber Monday,” will see an auctioneer showcasing sale items via a Facebook Live stream. Shoppers will be able to claim the product at the set price and the Seward Chamber of Commerce will then collect payment from them.

“We want people to have the chance to shop local this holiday season while staying safe,” Sorensen said Tuesday via email.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the Soldotna Shines Holiday Celebration will take place on Dec. 16. The event will take place on Dec. 18.

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