PALMER — Santa Claus is coming back to town with all his jolly elves at The Christmas Factory to spread some holiday cheer within the Palmer Fairgrounds.
“We’re ready to have a really fun year again,” Christmas Factory owner Megan Garvin said.
Starting Nov. 26, families can bring their children to get in the Christmas spirit with an interactive theater experience featuring tours of Santa’s workshop, hot cocoa with Mrs. Claus, a look at the big, red sleigh before takeoff, and a visit with Old Saint Nick himself at the end.
All the while, tours are led by enthusiastic elves who laugh and joke with the guests as they make their way from one scenic location to the next.
Local actors from across the community don pointy green caps and a festive persona to offer a one-of-a-kind experience for each tour. Garvin said they held auditions earlier this month, noting that there’s a lot of local students covering most of the Valley schools in this year’s cast.
“We have a super fun cast of elves. They are all very energetic. It’s a very, very upbeat group this year,” Garvin said.
The Christmas Factory is the first of its kind in the Mat-Su Valley, and the only of its kind in the state, according to Garvin.
“There is nothing like it in Alaska,” Garvin said. “It’s very interactive, and we hope you’re part of the magic also.”
Garvin said that each stop on the tour was designed to spark each child’s imagination. Since she’s there during tours as an elf alongside the others, she gets to hear what the families have to say about the set designs.
“It takes a lot of work to pull it off, but it’s so rewarding to be there and see it all come together. That’s the highlight for me, just being in the room as an elf and hearing them say, ‘wow, that’s really cool,’ and ‘that’s definitely homemade,’” Garvin said.
While the core experience remains the same every year, Christmas Factory tours offer something new each year, featuring new stories, scenes, and characters. Garvin said they have several exciting updates this season, including more musical numbers and the addition of two live reindeer who will both play the part of Vixen.
“It’s very exciting. We purchased the reindeer ourselves, so we are real elves,” Garvin said with a laugh. “It’s going to add so much to the whole story this year. It’ll be awesome because people can linger and hang out with the reindeer, and when they come to the gate, the reindeer will be there to greet them.”
Garvin reflected on the last four years being able to spread Christmas cheer with local families, finding several that have made visiting the factory one of their holiday traditions.
“It’s fun to watch the kids grow up with our regulars every year. We really try to focus on the spirit of Christmas… I think it’s in my genetics honestly,” Garvin said with a laugh. “My grandmother is a huge part of my life, and she makes Christmas over the top every year… We moved to Alaska and realized I didn’t have my grandma at Christmas anymore and I realized there’s a lot of people who don’t have family around, so I kinda brought that all together. Actually, Mrs. Claus’ bakery is inspired by my grandma’s house at Christmas time.”
Garvin said that she anticipates utilizing an additional building at the Alaska State Fair in the future to accommodate their operation’s continued growth.
“They are so great to work with. We love the state fair, and it’s a really great location for people to find and recognize, so we’re really grateful for that,” Garvin said. “Every year, we want to grow and add something to the production., but I always want it to maintain that personal feeling,” Garvin said. “I feel like Palmer is that small town, old-fashioned kind of vibe. It’s my hope that the community gains something from having it here, and it kind of brings that hometown feeling of belonging at Christmas time. I hope they can feel at home and cozy when they’re seeing us.”
The Christmas Factory tours must be pre-booked online or over the phone. Tours run through Dec. 23. For more information, visit akchristmas.com.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com