Soldotna Creek Park was again filled with winter jackets and holiday cheer on Saturday as the annual Christmas in the Park drew hundreds to meet Santa Claus, go on sleigh rides, sip hot cocoa and listen to music.
Even before a Central Emergency Services firetruck delivered Santa to the waiting crowd, lines stretched across the park for cookies, stockings and rides. The annual event is put on by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, with support from a variety of local businesses and entities who donated the drinks, cookies, gifts for free stockings and more.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche welcomed Santa to the space’s main stage — saying he was hoping for an opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and make a few Christmas wishes of his own. Santa said the youngest child to sit on his lap was only 4 hours old, at Central Peninsula Hospital. The oldest, he said, was 104 years old.
The pair led the crowd to the Christmas tree at the parks center, and led a countdown to its lighting — marked with the cheers of a crowd of children.
After the lighting, Santa moved to his seat — where his reindeer were waiting — and spent the next couple of hours sitting with children, hearing their Christmas wishes and giving their parents the opportunity to grab photos.
While people waited, a string of performers kept action moving on the space’s main stage. Ellie and the Echoes, the Kenai Performers’ Victorian Carolers, Charli Byrd and Josiah Burton sang Christmas carols, and the College Heights Baptist Church put on a Nativity scene. Ellie Nelson and Burton said as they performed that they were plucking guitar strings and striking piano keys with chilly fingers.
Festivities closed with fireworks exploding over the Kenai River, the edge of the park lined with people hoping for a good view.