Munching into the holidays

Annual events kick off Christmas season


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Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber president Pete Mulcahy, right, welcomes Santa Claus to the 2011 Winter Wonderland celebration in Town Square Park. This year's event begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30.

STAR FILE PHOTO

Get hungry, folks.

The annual community Christmas buffet known as Merry Merchant Munch is set for this Friday and Saturday (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) in downtown Eagle River. According to Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce special events director Merry Braham, this year’s Munch features a record 55 participating businesses.

“That’s a lot of munching,” Braham said.

The easiest way to get involved in the fun, Braham said, is to pick up one of the chamber’s Merry Munch Guides, find the map (also available on this page), and get munching.

“You grab a map, take a look and just get started,” she said.

With so many local businesses to choose from, Braham said folks shouldn’t have any trouble filling their tummies with goodies.

“Let me tell you, there are some fantastic cooks in this town,” she said.

Participating businesses will open their doors to the public for the free event on Friday, Saturday ¬— or both. This year they’ll be competing to take the Munch titles in 17 themed categories, including “Hometown Holiday,” “Holiday Elegance,” “Classic Christmas,” “Spirit of the Season,” “Merriest Merchant,” “Holiday Dreams,” “That’s Sweet,” “Tastiest Savory,” “Festivus Favorite,” “Best Tree,” “It’s All About the Cookies,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Rudolph Reigns,” “Deck the Halls,” “Cozy Christmas” and “Judges’ Choice.”

Braham said the chamber has enlisted more than 20 judges tasked with hitting as many businesses as possible during the two-day event.

“Each group will have assigned places where they go,” she said.

This year marks the 20th year of the event. In that time, Braham said some businesses have become nearly fanatical in their pursuit of Munch accolades.

“There kinda become traditions within the tradition,” she said.

That means plenty of gourmet goodies will be available as contestants battle to out-Munch each other.

“Some are very serious and very dedicated,” she said.

The event takes place Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Friday’s Munch serves as the lead-in to the annual Winter Wonderland Celebration in Town Square Park. That event, which includes the Christmas tree lighting, a visit from Santa (and his reindeer), sleigh rides, Christmas carols free treats and more begins at 5:30 p.m.

Braham said Santa is scheduled to arrive at 7 p.m. And the jolly elf won’t head back to the North Pole until every child gets a wish in.

“He will not leave until everybody there who wants to see him, gets to see him,” Braham said.

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