Santa Claus is coming to town and he’s making a stop right here in Oak Harbor for Home Depot’s annual Christmas Village.
Home Depot staff are decking the halls and putting up the jingle bells in preparation for Santa’s animals and activities and the hundreds of families who will make lifelong memories at the village this year.
Christmas Village is open rain or shine in the Home Depot parking lot Dec. 14 through 23. Hours on weekdays are 4 to 7 p.m. Weekend hours are noon to 7 p.m. Admission is free but a canned food drive will be held to benefit the North Whidbey Help House.
Enjoy a Christmas Village preview at Toppins Frozen Yogurt as Mr. and Mrs. Claus visit from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10 and Tuesday, Dec. 11.
At Christmas Village, Santa will make every child feel special. Professional photos will be available to purchase and a portion of proceeds benefit Relay for Life, or visitors can bring their own cameras. One day will be set aside for photos with Santa and your pets. Check the Oak Harbor Christmas Village Facebook page for details.
“A lot of places, you have to pay to see Santa,” Home Depot store manager James Croft said, emphasizing that entrance is free at Christmas Village.
“It’s very personalized,” Croft said of Home Depot’s Christmas Village. Not only does the child enjoy a chat and photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus, but they can also tour Santa’s village and see his animals, Croft added.
“Our Santa never rushes,” said Missy Rayfield, Home Depot employee.
And lines aren’t a bother because children have many things to do while they wait, added Terry Tirado, Home Depot employee.
Among those activities are a 4-H petting zoo, complete with rabbits, a Clydesdale horse, three mini donkeys and mini horses, plus a coloring activity by 4-H. A variety of choirs will perform, including the Boy Scouts. New this year is a huge train loaned by the Boys and Girls Club.
Fire pits will keep people warm through the winter evening and provide a fun place to share stories, Croft said.
And what Christmas Village is complete without cocoa, cider and sugar cookies?
But watch out for one special guest: he’s mean, he’s green and he’s hairy — the Grinch. Croft is looking forward to embracing his alter-ego as the entertaining character.
“To see a kid’s eyes light up when they see Santa, that’s the best. Then there’s a few kids whose eyes light up when they see the Grinch, and I like that better,” Croft laughed.
Another of his favorite aspects is that Christmas Village allows families to come together, despite distance or age.
“Kids when it started more than 30 years ago are coming back with their own kids. That’s my favorite part,” Croft said. Since Christmas Village is located close to home, families can come back night after night to enjoy the holiday spirit.
“We really enjoy having people and their excitement, the joy,” Rayfield said.
A community effort
Volunteers have already put in more than 150 volunteer hours and the village hasn’t even opened yet, Tirado said. She welcomes high school students to help out.
“We know they need their hours. It’s not hard work, it’s fun,” Tirado said.
Volunteers will finish putting the village together today and help is welcome.
The Oak Harbor Home Depot store has done 28 community projects this year and Christmas Village is their biggest.
“This is our funnest, it brings out the spirit,” Tirado said.
“We’re proudest of this event,” Croft added.
“We’re hoping for our biggest turnout ever this year,” Croft said. They had more than 1,000 children last year. “It’s about getting the community together and sharing the season.”
Sponsors include Toppins, which donated the tasty treats; 4-H; Skagit Farmers Supply supplied the bedding for the barns and more; Walmart donated candy canes; the Blue Fox Drive-In donated equipment and decorations; Diamond Rentals supplied Santa’s tent; Oak Harbor Fire Department provides electricity. Additional sponsors can be found on the village’s Facebook page.
For more information, visit the Christmas Village Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ohchristmasvillage.