Governor continues 100-year-old holiday tradition


Open house visitors excitedly prepare to sample the cookies. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

High school students play holiday music in the ballroom as residents met with the governor. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

Acting public safety commissioner Keith Mallard serves cookies outside the Governor's Mansion. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

Commissioners serve cider to Juneau residents waiting in line outside. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

Nutcrackers, gingerbread houses, and Christmas stockings are just a few of the decorations adorning the mansion. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

Barbara Burnett, Bunny Lindegaard, and Rita Dienst of Capital City Republican Women serve cider indoors. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

The Governor’s Mansion is decorated for the holidays. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

Gov. Sean Parnell and First Lady Sandy Parnell greet residents near the entrance. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

Several school groups go through the cookie line. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

The Juneau Charter School intermediate band plays for those waiting in line. (Photo by Sarah Yu/KTOO)

Russian tea cookies, white chocolate coconut clusters, and star-shaped butter cookies are just a small sampling of what was available Tuesday afternoon at the Governor’s Annual Christmas and Holiday Open House.

Doors to the Governor’s Mansion opened to the public at 3 o’clock, “and then they’re greeted to the governor, first lady, lieutenant governor,” explains Erika Fagerstrom, manager of the Governor’s Mansion. She’s been organizing the Governor’s Annual Christmas and Holiday Open House for eight years. This year, though, is a little more special than others.

“They started constructing the house May, 1912, and by December the family had already moved in and they had their very first open house New Year’s 1913, so this is the 100th open house,” Fagerstrom says.

After the greetings, guests walk into the dining room where there is a large table with trays and trays of cookies and fudge. For 4-year-old Ella Malaby, this is what she’s been waiting for.

“She loves it. That was her favorite part was seeing that whole table full of cookies and candy,” says Staci Malaby.

She brings her daughter to the governor’s open house every year. “She knows this house is the cookie house, not the Governor’s House, and she loves seeing the gingerbread houses and the train.”

Veronica Salter, 14, is with her classmates from Faith Community School. They’re performing songs from the musical “Christmas in Black & White.” Salter can’t remember a year she hasn’t been at the governor’s open house. “I like how everybody is really friendly and how people are singing also and they play beautiful music and I like meeting the governor, too. I got to shake his hand and say hello,” Salter says.

Roland Eim is from Germany and is visiting Juneau for the first time. He heard about the open house from his daughter who recently moved to town.

“We actually walked for about half a mile to come here and got very wet as you can see and I got a really nice conversation with the governor,” Eim says.

Eim says he’s surprised with the notion of a governor opening up his house to the public, “In Germany or like in France or like any other country, you’d likely have lots of police protecting the governor, so I think it’s a very awesome thing. It’s very close to the people and I appreciate that much, really.”

For Gov. Sean Parnell, continuing the open house tradition is important.

“It really says that our government, our house, the people’s house is accessible. And it’s our chance to be accessible in a pretty big way and for people to really enjoy the house that belongs to them,” Parnell says.

Along with continuing the tradition of the open house, the Parnell family will practice another tradition as they spend the holidays at home in Juneau – opening one gift on Christmas Eve.

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