FAIRBANKS - Four-year old MacKenzie Sleeman's face and eyes lit up with a huge smile as a purple balloon was tied to her wrist. Her 2-year-old brother, Tristan James, was similarly entranced with his first balloon ever.
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Balloons were being given away at a record rate Wednesday (June 27) afternoon to hundreds of children flocking to Pioneer Park to celebrate the first annual Fairbanks Day.
In a 60-minute period, the team of Lee Cheever, Pioneer Park caretaker, assisted by Heather Mosley, youth crew supervisor, inflated 100 red, green, blue and purple balloons, tied them off, and attached them with a string to an unending line of willing wrists.
Sunny skies and warm weather hustled in the crowds.
Halfway through the all-day celebration, 500 coupon books offering special discounts, bonuses and hourly drawings from park merchants were gone.
Free train rides on the Crooked Creek and Whiskey Island Railroad, which encircles the 44-acre park, was another huge draw.
Rielly Everson, 5, especially liked the railroad's scream tunnel.
His 3-year old sister Macy's favorite part of the park visit with their mother, Shawna Everson, and grandmother, Judy Badger, was swinging on the playground swings.
Baby Nautia Everson, 1, said "Food," emphatically, while feasting on a fat pretzel with cheese.
Moira Cunningham, 13, and friend Charlotte Perry, 13, kept active visiting each store in their coupon book for special deals and to enter drawings, along with Cunningham's mother, Andrea, and younger siblings, William, 10, and Mattison, 5.
Photos for grandma who lives on the East Coast was the incentive for Aimee Benson to take her children, Nevaeh, 2, and Kamren, 4, to the Old-Time Photos shop. There Nevaeh donned a red and black dance hall girl dress and Kamren, a prospector's outfit complete with gold pan, to pose for sepia print photos.
According to Pioneer Park officials, Fairbanks Day will be an annual event.
"We want Fairbanksans to see what the park has to offer and get Fairbanks nonprofit organizations together to show what they do for the community."
A number of community organizations from the Resource Center for Parents and Children to the Chamber of Commerce were stationed next to the Riverboat Nenana with information tables.
Families were out in force enjoying not only the train rides, the large playground and picnic areas and Gold Rush Town, but visiting many of the other attractions offered at Pioneer Park. Its many museums include the Pioneer Hall, the Pioneer Air Museum, the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, as well as the Riverboat Nenana, the Denali Observation Car, the Indian and Eskimo Village and the Bear Gallery.