Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Christmas carols, a blanket of fresh white snow, sleigh rides and plenty of hot cocoa — what sounds like a fairy tale Christmas will come to life once again this Friday and Saturday (Dec. 2-3) at Eagle River’s annual Winter Wonderland and Merry Merchant Munch celebration in Town Square Park.
“This is just a great family event,” said Merry Braham, special events coordinator for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce.
As usual, the festivities will begin with the annual “Merry Merchant Munch,” during which folks can visit more than 40 local small businesses and chow down on a variety of free tasty morsels.
“It’s all right there in town,” Braham said.
The Munch begins at 2 p.m. Friday and continues through 6 p.m. Many businesses also participate from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday (see map). Most of the participating businesses are located in downtown Eagle River, making getting to most easier than a sleigh ride to grandma’s house.
“The best way to enjoy it is to just pick up a map and go forth and eat,” Braham said.
Braham said the annual event is a great way for locals to get out and visit with their friends and neighbors while also learning about Eagle River’s business community.
“We’ve got lots of interesting things here that people can see and do,” she said.
At 5:30 on Friday, the fun goes to another level, when schoolchildren from all seven local elementary schools will begin singing carols in Town Square. Braham said folks are welcome to sing along, and songbooks are available at the event, the Chamber offices (12001 Business Boulevard) or at the Star offices at 11401 Old Glenn Highway.
Also this year, MTA is sponsoring free sleigh rides courtesy of Chugiak’s own John Naumann in Town Square.
Braham said burn barrels and warming tents will be set out to help folks stay warm, though she said the Christmas spirit is usually enough to keep people toasty.
“We’re Alaskans, we’re tough,” she said.
Free food and warm drinks will be provided by more than a dozen local organizations, and Braham said she expects to hand out thousands of cookies before the night is through.
There’s also a chance to give back to the community, as well, as the Sleeping Lady Lions will be accepting items for their Tree of Giving, and the Eagle River Rotary will collect food items for the Eagle River Food Pantry.
The guest of honor — Santa himself — will arrive (along with reindeer) at 7 p.m., and a tree lighting ceremony will be held shortly after.
“This is the real Santa Claus, with real reindeer,” she said.
Braham said parents should make sure and bring their cameras along for the man in red’s arrival.
“This is the photo op of a lifetime,” she said.
Anyone who misses Santa can check in on him Saturday morning at a special “Breakfast with Santa” pancake feed at the Eagle River Elks to benefit Chugiak Children’s Services. Cost for that event is $5 or $20 per family and runs from 9 a.m. to noon.
Also Saturday, a Hand Made Bazaar will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church (17545 N. Eagle River Loop).
Braham said the idea behind the annual Christmas season kick-off is simply to let local folks get out and get into the holiday spirit.
“It’s just to get people out and about,” she said. “Just get out and have a safe, fun time and enjoy this laid back moment.”