Ninilchik fairgrounds: a stage for ‘christmas tree lane’

By McKibben Jackinsky

Staff writer

Christmas carols mention a Santa Claus Lane: “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane.” Some cities — Portland, Ore., for example — have a street so beautifully decorated for the holidays that it becomes known as “Christmas Lane.”  In Bishop, Calif., there’s a “Street of Lights” celebration on Friday.

Ninilchik isn’t far behind.

For the first time, the Kenai Peninsula State Fairgrounds is being decorated as “Christmas Tree Lane.”

Sharing memories of Christmas past, fair manager Lara McGinnis was telling some local young people about the “Christmas Tree Lane” of her childhood.

“Where I grew up there were about eight blocks, covered with lights, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. They shut it down to two-way traffic and you could only drive through one way to see the lights. Then an organization collected donations on the other side,” said McGinnis. “It was beautiful.”

Ninilchik’s so small, however, that those listening to McGinnis had never seen anything like she was describing.

“Oh yeah, we’d have to go a long way to see anything like that,” they told her.

 Not this year, however. With plenty of real estate to offer, the fairgrounds have been opened up to the rest of the community and its neighbors to start a new tradition: Ninilchik’s very own Christmas Tree Lane.

“I started talking to different businesses, and the more we talked, the more excited they got,” said McGinnis.

Homer Electric Association has given a $500 donation to offset the cost of electricity. American Legion Post 18 and the American Legion Auxiliary have agreed to pick out a spot to decorate. The 4H Trailblazers also have stepped up with an offer to decorate a building.

Along the front of buildings inside the fair’s main entrance, various holiday shapes are outlined in lights. A Christmas tree, wrapped in lights, claims the center of the fair’s small stage.

A blue building decorated with tulip cutouts is outlined in lights, thanks to Ninilchik General Store. Along the front of the building is a fence of linking candy canes.

The sparkling outline of Santa extends a warm greeting in the cold wintry night where, during the three-day fair in August, crowds line up for slices of pizza. 

Nighttime visitors should take along a flashlight to catch a glimpse of unlit holiday decorations applied to other buildings. 

Even McGinnis and her family are getting into the act.

“My family decided we need to invest some Christmas light money, so my boys, Ronald and Robert, put in some time putting up lights,” said McGinnis.                     

A timer is set to turn on the lights at 5 p.m. and turn them off four hours later until Jan. 1.

The lights added to the holiday glow on the fairgrounds during Saturday’s craft bazaar. They also will light the dark winter night for  Sunday’s community’s annual Christmas celebration. If it’s anything like last year’s festivities — a meal prepared by the Ninilchik Domestic Engineers, local actors performing “The Fishing Village That Forgot About Christmas” and a singing of Christmas carols — it’s going to be a celebration to remember. 

By then, the magic of Christmas Tree Lane may have spread and more lights will be twinkling. McGinnis has extended the invitation to anyone wanting to participate.

 “There’s still room for people to add more to it,” she said. “I hope over the years this will turn into a giant Christmas village.” 

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at