Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Hundreds flock to Town Square for tree lighting, songs, Santa


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Dylan Quick shares his Christmas list with Santa at the Winter Wonderland Tree Lighting in Town Square on Friday, Dec. 6.

CINTHIA RITCHIE

Not rain nor fog nor even slippery footing prevented families from gathering at Town Square early in the evening Friday, Dec. 6 for the 21st annual Winter Wonderland event.

Elementary school choirs serenaded the crowd while folks took spins around town in a horse-drawn sleigh and delicious scents wafted through the air from the Senior Center tent. Add a couple of free hot drinks and cookies and it was the perfect setup for the grand finale: The tree lighting.

And, of course, the arrival of the fat guy.

At promptly 7 p.m., Miss and Mr. Bear Paw turned on the Christmas tree, colored lights sparkling through the night.

Soon after the children became restless, running back and forth and asking parents over and over, “Is he here yet?”

And he was, at least almost.

But instead of swooping in on a sleigh, Santa paraded up in a torch-light procession.

According to Chugiak Eagle River Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Susie Gorski, only three reindeer were available this year, which wasn’t enough reindeer power to safely pull the sleigh.

The children didn’t care.

Santa was Santa, and they lined up at the edge of the square to sit in his sleigh and tell him what they hoped to see under the tree. There were a lot of requests for Barbie dolls, snowboards, video games and, among the girls, Taylor Swift CDs and merchandise.

More than an hour later, the crowd began to thin and a chill hung deep in the air but Santa never lost his twinkle. He leaned his bearded head toward the last of the children as they climbed inside his sleigh and whispered to him the things that they wanted.

Beyond them, the night was dark and the massive holiday tree reached toward the sky in a snow-capped hush of lights.

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