PUBLISHED: 3:27 PM on Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Governor's home open to public on Tuesday
Alaskans are a very friendly lot, and at no time is that more obvious than during the holidays. People are happy to throw open their doors and welcome friends and family in for a visit-even if that means having more than 2,000 guests stopping by to share in the holiday spirit.

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Governor Frank Murkowski and First Lady Nancy Murkowski will be opening up the governor's mansion to the public for their annual holiday open house, which will take place from 3-6 p.m.

Now in its 92nd year, the event attracts visitors from all over Alaska, and even some from out-of-state.

"We've already received several phone calls from people who want to fly in to see the decorations, shake hands with the governor and just participate in this fun event," said Karen Newton, executive residence manager.

And what an event it is.

This year, visitors will wander through a candy cane-themed winter wonderland, filled with cookies and cakes and scented with the welcoming aroma of warm apple cider.

"Even though we re-use a number of decorations every year, this year the house will look very different," said Newton.

"The First Lady wanted us to do a childlike theme using candy canes, so while it will still be elegant, it will also be much more of a child's Christmas than we've had in the past few years."

Visitors to the mansion will be greeted at the door, where they will be able to shake the hands of the Governor and First Lady.

"From there, they will proceed to the dining room, where they can fill a plate with candies, cakes and cookies made by the Governor's chef and house staff," said Newton.

The staff has prepared roughly 19,375 cookies for visitors, as well as 30 pounds of candies, 1,440 tartlets and 2,425 breads, including coconut, pumpkin and mini-cranberry scones.

Guests can then wander into the conservatory to enjoy the winter holiday display of gingerbread houses, or to the library for warm apple cider and the house holiday punch. Entertainment will be provided in the ballroom, as well as in a tent outside the front door.

"People in line to enter the residence will be able to enjoy performances, and will also be served hot apple cider by Alaska state commissioners while they wait," Newton said.

Outdoor entertainment will include sleight-of-hand tricks by Alaska's Commissioner of Mirth Jeff Brown, as well as musical performances by the Juneau Christian School Carolers, Juneau Douglas High School Choral Ensemble, Glacier Valley Baptist Messengers and the Victorian Carolers.

Ballroom performances will include entertainment by the Juneau Douglas High School Brass Ensemble, Instrumental Ensembles and Choral Ensemble; the Glacier Valley Messengers; Aurora Strings; Victorian Carolers; and the Alaska Youth Choir.

In past years, the Governor's Open House has attracted up to 3,000 visitors, which is a far cry from its humble beginnings in 1913 when 350 people attended the event.

It has been held every year since, except for two years during World War II.

"We usually see about 2,000 people, depending on the weather, media coverage, and level of enthusiasm for the holidays on a given year," Newton said.

To prepare for this kind of crowd takes a lot of time and a lot of work.

"The First Lady and I coordinate it, and the house staff works months in advance, baking, decorating and taking phone calls," Newton said. "We invite everyone to come to the open house and get into the spirit of the holidays. It's very fun, very festive, and it's just a great community event."

Those guests with special accessibility needs should call Newton in advance at 465-3500 to make special arrangements.