Deck the halls: Mansion to welcome governor, public

Posted: Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gov. Sarah Palin hasn't yet arrived in Juneau, but intensive preparations already are under way for next week's open house at the Governor's Mansion.

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Local volunteers have decorated the house for Christmas, and holiday goodies will be served, said Erika Fagerstrom, executive residence manager.

"It is a very nice time to have the house open," she said.

Palin, inaugurated as Alaska's ninth governor Monday in Fairbanks, has meetings this week in Anchorage with oil company executives before her announced arrival in Juneau on Friday.

Monday is the traditional open house at the mansion. Fagerstrom expects an unusually strong turnout.

"It depends on the weather," she said. "I imagine there will be quite a few people to greet the new governor."

A recent open house had 2,945 guests, she said. That's nearly 10 percent of the city's population of 30,711.

The annual open house is a cherished Juneau tradition, having been held every year since 1913 except for two years during World War II.

The first thing visitors will see upon entering the ballroom is the Christmas tree, a 13-foot Alaskan lodgepole pine provided by Jim McFarland of the Southeast logging community of Thorne Bay.

"We have a real Alaskan tree in the house," Fagerstrom said.

Before Thorne Bay began providing the tree, the state's Christmas tree came from out of state, she said.

Visitors will be able to listen to entertainment and greet Palin and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who will receive them in front of the fireplace in the grand hall.

As always, it's strictly a dessert menu: 15,445 cookies, 1,420 tartlets, 3,490 mini muffins.

Note to the uninitiated: Don't eat the gingerbread houses. Made by junior high students, they're for display only.

Decorations are being handled by the Capital City Republican Women under the leadership of Ginger Johnson, Fagerstrom said.

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