Christmas comes to Eagle River

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 10:59
  • Santa Claus, left, and exchange student Isabella Cerri light the Christmas tree during the Winter Wonderland Celebration in Town Square Park Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Cerri is an exchange student sponsored by the local Rotary club who attends Eagle River High School. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Horses belonging to Peters Creek’s Jon Nauman prepare to give a sleigh ride during the Winter Wonderland celebration on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 in downtown Eagle River. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • The annual Winter Wonderland celebration was held Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 in Town Square Park. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • The annual Winter Wonderland celebration was held Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 in Town Square Park. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • The annual Winter Wonderland celebration was held Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 in Town Square Park. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • A reindeer from the Williams Farm in the Butte eats some snow during the Winter Wonderland celebration Friday, Dec. 1, 2017 in Town Square Park. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Hundreds of holiday revelers packed Eagle River Friday and Saturday for the annual Christmastime kick-off known as the Merry Merchant Munch and Winter Wonderland celebration.

The event got underway Friday morning as a trickle of shoppers checked out businesses participating in the Munch, and annual shop-and-dine event in which local retailers hand out holiday treats and decorate for the season. By afternoon, those numbers had turned into a flood as families went from business to business sampling goodies and checking out the downtown business district.

In the evening, Town Swuare Park filled up with the young and young at heart as sledding, burn barrels, hot chocolate and Christmas carols transformed the snowy park into a Rockwellian scene complete with sleigh rides, a sledding hill and a visit from Santa — and a few of his reindeer.

The event is an annual production of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, which joined with the Eagle River Area Rotary Club, the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions, the Municipality of Anchorage a numerous local businesses to put on the two-day festival. More than 50 retailers took part in the Munch, Jon Naumann provided the sleigh rides and the Williams Farm in the Butte helped Santa get his reindeer lined out.

Students from local elementary schools provided the music, while members of the Bear Paw royalty court helped guide Santa’s reindeer by providing a torchlight parade. Miss Alaska Angelina Klapperich even made an appearance, posing for photos in front of the giant Christmas tree towering over the square on Business Boulevard.

In addition to providing plenty of free cheer, the Chamber also sponsored a contest between retailers in food and decoration categories. We’ll update this story when results are announced.

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