KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE --
More than 700 Team Kirtland members braved the cold weather to experience this year’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Kirtland Air Force Base Chapel on Dec. 5, 2019.
The evening began with a choral performance by the American Heritage Girls Choir followed by the annual tradition of lighting the Christmas tree. Hundreds of children with glow sticks and wide smiles helped usher in the evening’s festivities.
After the official ceremony, Santa arrived in a fire truck and was immediately surrounded by excited children. Parents, children, grandparents, friends and family alike waited patiently in line to sample cookies and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
“I’ve seen everyone from a two-year old to a two-star general here tonight,” said Col. David Miller, 377th Air Base Wing commander, “This event is far above any other base I’ve ever seen…from the American Heritage Girls Choir to the generosity of our sponsors, I’ve never seen a better way of welcoming the season.”
In addition to the chapel activities families enjoyed a new feature, a petting zoo from Runyan Ranches of Mayhill, New Mexico, who brought with them more than 20 animals including a kangaroo, a 20lb African turtle, and many others.
“Everyone here at Kirtland has been so so sweet; and the families, I think they really enjoyed it,” said Camille Runyan with Runyan Ranches “it was so packed.”
She added that the animals thrive on the attention and the crowd.
More than 25 Kirtland Airmen volunteered to assist with everything from parking, to handing out the cookies and hot chocolate, helping make the event a huge success.
“This is my first year doing this and the lines have not stopped” said Senior Airman Thaddeus Boston, 377th Comptroller Squadron financial analyst. Boston was surprised by the amount of people who attended the event.
Inside the chapel, children also had the opportunity to make Christmas ornaments to take home after their visit with Santa Claus. Teresa L. Reinhard, 377th Air Base Wing community support coordinator, assisted in both craft rooms.
U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Maj.) Craig H. Nakagawa, 377th Air Base Wing chaplain, could not hold back “no matter how you are celebrating…this event represents the spirt of the season,” said Nakagawa when describing his joy in team Kirtland coming together to make the event a reality.