Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive at this annual Christmas gala in a 1918 open sleigh, adorned by 2,500 Christmas lights. The sleigh pulls up to a lodge decorated with 35,000 bright Christmas lights.
It’s time for the 45th annual Christmas party at Chatanika Lodge beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
A similar, but quieter, Christmas party will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Friday for special needs children. This event, organizers said, will be less loud and less bright to accommodate those special needs. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be there too. Owners Ron and Shirley Franklin started that separate tradition about six years ago.
The lodge is a little more than 20 miles north of Fairbanks on the Steese Highway and this holiday party for families is a popular destination every year.
The Franklins started the annual event back in 1974 and now spearhead the celebration every year. Everyone is invited and no reservations are required or accepted.
“Any family that wants to come should come,” Franklin said. “I get people coming all the way from Salcha, Fort Wainwright, Goldstream, Fairbanks.”
Three generations of one family are attending this year, he added.
There is also, he hinted, a talking snowman who knows the names of all the kids at the party.
“That’s something you don’t see every day,” he said.
Franklin said he decorated the lodge with 35,000 Christmas lights and added, “It’s like Las Vegas in here.”
Every year, on Black Friday, Franklin and two helpers get up at 4 a.m. and go to town to buy presents for children for this Christmas party. They’ve been doing it for so long, they are quite efficient and usually done with the massive shopping trip by 7:30 a.m. He credited Fred Meyer with making it easy to do this annual shopping spree.
“We get the toys and then off we go,” he said.
As we spoke, some of his “elves” were busy wrapping those presents.
“My wife don’t hang lights and I don’t wrap presents,” Franklin said. “I’ve got a good crew.”
Children age 11 and under eat for free at the Christmas buffet, but adults will pay a fee of $10.
The event is sponsored by the Chatanika Lodge and the Chatanika Community nonprofit, but donations are accepted.
“Every year, we have such a good turnout to see Santa that we recommend that you arrive early to secure a table and seating for your family,” according to the Chatanika Lodge Facebook page. “No reservations are accepted.”
Questions or concerns? Call 907-389-2164.
Santa Claus is coming to downtown Fairbanks, 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Fairbanks Community Museum, upstairs in the Co-Op Plaza at 535 Second Ave.
Santa will be giving away gifts to children age 12 and under. There will be holiday films for families and refreshments. Join the fun prior to the Solstice fireworks display at 8 p.m.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.