Soldotna got jolly this Saturday with not one, but two visits from Santa Claus — one in the afternoon outside of First Alaska Insurance, where Kenai City Council and Kenai Peninsula School Board member Tim Navarre donned the red suit to speak with children and pose with two reindeer, and in the evening at Soldotna Creek Park, where David Caswell assumed the role to sing carols and turn on an array of lights draped in the shape of a Christmas tree around the park’s flag pole.
At First Alaska Insurance, Navarre — who last weekend brought Christmas to Kenai as Santa in the city’s “Christmas comes to Kenai” festivities — said he was playing Santa for the fifth time this season and had been doing the role for about “25, 30 years.”
“I learn about the toys, and I learn to get down to where I’m not overpowering the little kids,” Navarre said about his Santa technique. “It’s kind of fun when you can get them to like Santa and come up and talk to him… Even the teenagers and older kids are having a good time, and that’s what Christmas is all about.”
The two reindeer roped to the front of Navarre’s sleigh were Comet and Scene of the Crash — the later named after a line in the Christmas song “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” according to reindeer handler Hara Hansen. With help from members of the Redoubt Riders Pony Club, Hansen was watching the reindeers on the behalf of their owner, her daughter Jenna Hansen, whom she said was away at college.
They had been making Christmas fundraiser appearances at various locations in Soldotna for the past three years, during which they had raised about $6,000, Hansen said.
This year, the money donated by parents who brought their children to see Santa and the reindeer were collected for the Kenai Peninsula School District’s Students in Transition program, which provides services to homeless youth in the district.
In Soldotna Creek Park, the Kenai Performers presented a short Christmas play and led the crowd in Christmas carols before Caswell came on stage as Santa Claus, joining the master of ceremonies, state senator and former Soldotna mayor Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna). After the final carol, Caswell and Micciche threw the switch to light the tree. Then, swarms of children hugged Caswell to warm him for his long flight back to the North Pole.