Mansion readied for open house

Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband to host annual holiday event, between 3 and 6 p.m. Friday

Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2007

Roughly 21,000 bite-size cookies, nearly 60 pounds of candy and about 75 pounds of fudge will be on hand Friday to delight thousands of Alaskans during the annual Christmas open house at the Governor's Mansion.

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Gov. Sarah Palin and first gentleman Todd Palin will host the annual holiday event, between 3 and 6 p.m. Friday.

The open house has been held each year since 1913, with the exception of two years during World War II.

In 1913, about 300 people attended the event. Last year, 2,324 people came to the open house, Executive Residence Manager Erika Fagerstrom said.

"The theme for the decorations this year is a whimsical, eclectic children's Christmas," she said. "Just a lot of really fun things that they have added."

Governor's open house

When: 3-6 p.m. Friday.

Where: Governor's Mansion, at 716 Calhoun Ave.

For those with special accessibility needs: Doors open at 2:30 p.m.

Two new 6-foot-tall wooden soldier decorations have been added this year that will stand guard to the dining room where a treasury of sweets will be located. The organizers want the open house to be a holiday event that children will remember for years to come, Fagerstrom said.

"Christmas is just such a magical time for children that we really want to gear the decorations to that audience," she said.

The Capital City Republican Women have been helping with the preparations for the open house and have been lending a hand with the interior decorations. Member Ginger Johnson said the group takes great pride in helping make one of Alaska's most treasured historical structures look festive for the holidays.

"It's a very fun project to work on and allows us a wonderful outlet for our creative talents, whatever they might be," she said.

Johnson, in her sixth year in a row helping decorate for the open house, said she has particularly fond memories of the Governor's Mansion because it is where she got married in 1983 during Gov. Bill Sheffield's administration.

Alaskans are fortunate to have the governor's mansion still in use and to have such great access to it, she said.

"It's a very wonderful example of our short history as a state," she said.

Along with the copious amounts of cookies and candy, the open house will also have a variety of holiday entertainment, Fagerstrom said. Several Juneau-Douglas High School ensembles are scheduled to provide music, along with The Messengers choir from the Glacier Valley Baptist Church, Aurora Strings, Alaska Youth Choir and a variety of others.

An 11-foot-tall Christmas tree provided by the community of Thorne Bay and gingerbread houses made by Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School students also will adorn the mansion. State commissioners and senior administration staff will be handing out hot cider and baked goods for guests waiting outside the mansion.

A limited number of guests will be admitted to the house at one time so people can expect to wait in line prior to entering, Fagerstrom said.

In past years the holiday snacks have been created by an executive chef, but this year they are made by local businesses. Nonetheless, there should be enough cookies and candy for everyone, Fagerstrom said.

"Every good hostess never runs out of cookies," she said.

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