PALMER — For nearly two decades, the Mat-Su Special Santa Program has used an event on Halloween each year to help spread more holiday cheer during the Christmas season.
The Mat-Su Special Santa Program and Alaska Family Services are hosting the 17th annual Halloween Hallow Wednesday from 3 to 8 p.m. at Raven Hall on the Alaska State Fairgrounds.
“It’s safe, it’s warm, it’s handicap accessible,” CEO, or “Chief Elf Organizer” of the Mat-Su Special Santa Program, Mari Jo Parks said.
Parks described this event as a, “trick or treat carnival,” with 35 different booths featuring a variety of wares and games for children of all ages.
“Each game is adapted to the child’s age,” Parks said.
There will be several activities parents can enjoy as well, like the annual cake walk.
This event may be about Halloween, but it serves as the big, kickoff event for the Special Santa program’s upcoming Christmas events and drives.
Parks and other volunteers work year-round to prepare for this event. After Halloween Hallow, those efforts surge as the Christmas clock starts counting down. They are currently in the middle of a bike drive, working with Backcountry Bike and Ski and both the Palmer and Wasilla Spenard Builder Supply stores as drop off sites. The bike drive runs until Nov. 17.
Parks said that there are about 100 active volunteers, or “elves” for the Special Santa Program, but they implore the public to volunteer since the need is ever growing.
After collecting materials, raising funds at various events, and combining resources with other entities around town, the elves busily sort through the toys, clothes and other goodies in their workshop, and set up each child on their list with at least two items off their wish list. Items include stocking stuffers, books and winter wear, when available or when asked for. After checking it twice, the elves mark each child off their list and parents can pick up the bag of holiday joy in time for Christmas Day.
“They’ve been amazing. Truly excellent people, dedicated elves,” Parks said.
Last year, the Special Santa Program helped 3,800 children from 1,270 families across the Mat-Su Valley, according to Parks. The program started 22 years ago and Parks said those years have been, “magical.”
“I like to use the words magical, because the community has embraced it, and the program gives generously to help bring Christmas to children,” Parks said.
Volunteer applications go out in second week in November. Anyone interested can go to the website and sign up to volunteer at specialsanta.net.
Halloween Hallow admission is $6 per person and children under one are admitted for free. In exchange for admission, attendees can also donate a brand new, unwrapped toy. No pets are allowed due to allergies. Adults must be accompanied by children and only children can wear masks during this event. The event description asked attendees not to bring stuffed animals for their admission exchange.
Fire departments hosting open houses
Several fire departments across the Valley are hosting open houses Halloween night.
Central Mat-Su is open to trick or treaters from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at Stations 51, 62, 63 and 65.
Palmer Fire and Rescue is hosting an open house at the Palmer Train Depot from 6 to 8 p.m. There are also open houses at the Butte station (6-10 p.m.) and Houston (5-7 p.m.). West Lakes Fire Department is hosting a “Trunk or Treat” event at the Big Lake Recreation Center from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
King’s Chapel hosting pumpkin patch
King’s Chapel of Wasilla is hosting a pumpkin patch event Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. According to organizers, there will be games and a fireworks show.
City of Wasilla hosting events
The Wasilla Museum and Visitor Center is hosting a Night at the Museum for Halloween Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The Menard Sports Center is hosting its Spooktacular event for the holiday, Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Swanson hosting annual carnival
Swanson Elementary in Palmer is hosting its annual fall carnival Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.
The carnival includes indoor trick or treating, games, a cake walk and silent auction.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com