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Holiday welcome at the Governor's House

More than 2,100 turn out for the governor's annual open house

Posted: Thursday, December 04, 2003

Gov. Frank Murkowski, first lady Nancy Murkowski and 2,192 of their closest friends gathered Wednesday night at the governor's home for the annual open house to ring in the holiday season.

The Murkowski's, along with Lt. Gov. Loren Leman and his wife, Carolyn, greeted visitors as they filed into the Main Hall for holiday treats and music.

"You need a roommate?" asked Taleka "Sunshine" Mathews, 32, after hugging the governor.

Mathews, who recently moved to Juneau from Virginia, said such an event never would happen in her home state.

"Too many people would show up," she said.

When asked why she hugged Murkowski, she said: "It's the season, baby. He welcomed us into his home."

In the main dining room, more than 30,000 cookies and other baked goods were served. Visitors also got a glimpse of gingerbread houses on display by Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School students.

Inside and out, holiday music was performed by local groups such as the Juneau Christian School Carolers, Celebration Ringers and Juneau Jubilee.

The first governor's holiday open house, in 1913, drew a crowd of just more than 300 people, according to the governor's office.

Residence manager Karen Newton, who has served at the residence for the last 13 years, said the open house is the biggest event of the year at the governor's residence.

"The last couple that came through the door have lived here 55 years and never have been in the mansion, so that was pretty special," she said.

Nancy Murkowski noted that the lodgepole pine Christmas tree displayed in the ballroom was donated by the community of Thorne Bay.

"We will always have an Alaska Christmas tree," she said.

Outside the residence, department heads from the Murkowski administration handed out treats to those waiting in line. Department of Labor Commissioner Greg O'Claray passed out cookies and Department of Administration Commissioner Mike Miller distributed cups of warm apple cider, while local magician Jeff Brown performed tricks.

"This is the easiest part of the job," O'Claray said.

Eight-year-old Kenny Conneen, who attended the holiday festival last year, waited anxiously for a turn at the treats table.

"On the way here he said, 'There's so many cookies there you can probably eat them off the wall,' " said Conneen's father, Rich.

Agnes D'Cafango Jr., 6, sang Christmas classics such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with her first-grade class from Juneau Christian School.

D'Cafango, who wants to be a singer when she grows up, said the music was her favorite part.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.



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