Friends-giving, white elephants, tree lightings, Christmas parties, caroling and company holiday parties are events we all attend in the last bit of November all the way through the first of the New Year. As much fun as they are, it can get draining going to party after party after party. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to Christmas, I describe myself as Will Ferrell’s character from the Holiday classic “Elf!” I love Christmas, truly and fanatically LOVE Christmas!! But it can be exhausting to go to a different event night after night. Several years ago, the tourism industry in Anchorage decided to combine their efforts and do a collective “Tourism Holiday Party” to cut down on everyone in the industry feeling like they all had to go to each other’s open house holiday parties.
What started off as a small gathering of a few businesses in Anchorage trying to make the hustle and bustle of the holiday season less chaotic is now one of the biggest parties of the year! It’s always the first week in December because we all know the closer you get to the 25th the crazier the chaos gets. It’s hosted at the Alaska Native Heritage Museum, which is a gem in and of itself, then decorated like Santa himself lives there. Any business can participate, they just ask that you bring 250-350 servings of what you are making. It’s basically a gourmet sampler tasting from several different hotels, restaurants and tourism businesses that want to say thank you to their partners, colleagues and clients.
Not only is there so much food to eat you’ll want to be wheel-barrowed out to your car at the end, but there are so many fun, interactive things to do. For instance, if it doesn’t take you all night to walk around and sample all the gastronomic delights, there is a giant snow globe you can crawl inside and feel a little magic as the music plays and a fan blows around light fake snow. Then there’s all the makings for s’mores to roast over an ember crackling fire outside, a photo booth with lots of accessories to choose from for making a festive photo. There’s live music and dancing, an actual horse-drawn sleigh to pull you around the Alaskan winter wonderland with fluffy warm blankets and hot cocoa, and what Christmas party would be complete without Old Saint Nic himself?! Back in the old days there used to be a “Naughty Santa” that would hand out PBR’s to all who sat on his lap. Since this party has become a more open house, family friendly event, he is a jolly Santa with a bag full of treats and toys for the little ones to choose from; all of the items Santa hands out are donated by participating businesses.
At our booth for the Anchorage Chapter of the Alaska Travel Industry Association we always have a special drink for the adults, this year was no different. We prepared and served a “Naughty” festive wine sangria for the adults and a “Nice” fruit punch for the younger ones still needing a few more years to imbibe!
The tourism industry certainly has plenty of reason to celebrate this season; tourism remains the one bright spot in Alaska’s years-long recession. The Christmas season is magical to me in so many ways and I love being part of an industry that wants to share that special time of year with its community.