Holiday Tradition

Murkowski's open house: 2,151 Alaskans, 19,000 cookies and 1 lodgepole pine

Posted: Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Governor's Mansion opened its doors to the public Tuesday to continue a 92-year-old Christmas tradition.

About 2,151 residents came by for Christmas carols, cups of hot cider and platefuls of snacks. They also toured the first floor of the home and lined up to shake Gov. Frank Murkowski's hand.

"I would describe him as a kind and generous man," said Gabe Reyes, a boy who attended and met Murkowski.

The Capital City Republican Women, the group responsible for the work, put about 80 hours of labor into the chore, said member Charlotte Richardson.

The women brought in two wooden horses from a dismantled carousel that private owners donated. The horses first arrived in Juneau in the 1940s when a carnival troupe traveling through Juneau went broke and liquidated some of its assets.

"They're fun and part of our history," Richardson said.

Spread across the dining room table were 19,000 cookies, 30 kinds of homemade candies and 1,400 pumpkin cheesecake and raspberry tartlets. First lady Nancy Murkowski said baking began in September.

"One thing that I liked that we saw was the candy house. It was really impressive," said Cody Weldon, 7, referring to the gingerbread houses created by students at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.

A 15-foot lodgepole pine tree illuminated a corner of the ballroom. For the third year in a row, groups in Thorne Bay fetched the showcase tree for the mansion while Northland Services shipped it here free of charge. The first lady said the previous trees came from Idaho.

Thorne Bay also surprised the governor with another tree for his private quarters.

"He wanted to be reminded of his childhood trees with blue lights and silver ornaments," said executive residence manager Karen Newton.

Entertainers inside and outside the mansion included the Alaska Youth Choir, Aurora Strings, Glacier Valley Baptist Messengers, the Juneau Christian School Carolers, the Juneau-Douglas High School brass, instrumental and high choral ensembles, and the Victorian Carolers.

"I like to listen to the music," said 7-year-old Douglas Wrenn, who left school early that day to visit the mansion.

The Capitol hosted its first Christmas open house during the same hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. On display was a tree with donated ornaments from legislators' offices.

Legislative Affairs Agency Executive Director Pam Varni said the event was also held to show off remodeling of chambers in progress on the second floor. Several hundred people attended.

She's not sure if this will also become an annual tradition.

"We'll just see how successful it is," Varni said.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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