Cookies take the cake at governor’s open house

Hundreds flow through mansion to meet governor, taste treats

For Kristi Kraft, preparing for the governor’s annual holiday open house is no piece of cake. It’s a stack of cookies.


Kraft is the baker at Abby’s Kitchen, and over the past few weeks, she and the other staff at the Juneau catering firm laid the groundwork for Tuesday night’s holiday open house at the governor’s mansion.

Each year since 1913, Alaskans have been invited to the mansion to shake the governor’s hand, tour the home’s ground floor, and enjoy holiday treats. On Tuesday night, as Juneau residents filed through the home’s front door, piles of cookes covered trays on the home’s dining room table.

“There’s so many cookies,” said Tom Roha of Abby’s Kitchen. “It’s not an everyday occurrence … I think it’s the largest even that we do featuring our baked goods.”

Abby’s Kitchen has fewer than 10 employees, and when the governor calls for help, it’s an all-hands-on-deck process, Kraft said. While she might handle the mixer, everyone wields scoops and helps where they can.

If they could devote their entire time to the governor’s order, it would take a full week of eight-hour days to get ready, she estimates. But the governor isn’t their only customer, so the baking and prep work is spread out.

“We have a system in place,” Roha said, explaining that the cookies were delivered to the house the night before.

On the night of the open house, Roha and Kraft were among the crowd making sure everything was just right.

In the living room adjacent to the platters of cookies, Gov. Bill Walker recalled years growing up when his family couldn’t afford to buy presents: They had to make their own.

“I never, ever, thought when I was making a present that I would ever be in this house,” he said.

He said the annual open house, which brings hundreds of Juneau residents through the doors of the home, is “a wonderful Alaska tradition, it’s a wonderful Juneau tradition.”

“For me, it’s very humbling,” Walker said. “I do think about the prior governors that were here with their families.”

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott pointed out that this year’s Christmas tree comes from his hometown of Yakutat, and first lady Donna Walker introduced three grandchildren who were present for the open house.

Before opening the home’s doors to the general public, Walker offered his Christmas wish for Alaskans:

“Good health. I hope that everybody has a safe holiday. We are looking forward to the upcoming year, 2018, of good things happening in Alaska, and we look forward to being part of that.”

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.


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