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Kirtland Air Force Base annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony rings in season with Santa, hot cocoa and Camel

Photo of a mother and daughter making an ornament.

Vivieene and Andrea Loper make an ornament together in the chapel at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Dec. 5, 2019. People attending the Christmas tree lighting were also able to get a picture with Santa Claus and visit a petting zoo. More than 700 Members of Team Kirtland attended the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessie Perkins)

Photo of Santa Claus at Christmas tree lighting event.

Mikaela Krumbach tells Santa Claus what she wants for Christmas at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Dec. 5, 2019. Children attending the Christmas tree lighting were also able to get a picture with Santa Claus and visit a petting zoo. More than 700 members of team Kirtland attended the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessie Perkins)

Photo of Christmas tree lighting event at Kirtland Air Force Base

Members of team Kirtland listen to Col. David Miller, 377th Air Base Wing commander, speak at the base chapel before the official lighting of the Christmas tree. Team Kirtland members attending the Christmas tree lighting were also able to get a picture with Santa Claus, eat cookies, drink hot chocolate, make crafts and visit a petting zoo. Over 700 Members of team Kirtland attended the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessie Perkins)

Photo of Christmas Tree lighting events.

Staff Sgt. Derrick Lehner, 377th Air Base Wing religious affairs, hands out glow sticks to children in attendance before the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at the chapel, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Dec. 5, 2019. Children attending the Christmas tree lighting were also able to get a picture with Santa Claus and visit a petting zoo. Over 700 members of team Kirtland attended the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessie Perkins)

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.