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Christmas Village revives on Whidbey

Among the Home Depot employees working to bring back Christmas Village at the Blue Fox Drive-in are, from the left, Missy Rayfield, Deb Alberts and Aileen Kesler. The village opens Dec. 11.  - Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times
Among the Home Depot employees working to bring back Christmas Village at the Blue Fox Drive-in are, from the left, Missy Rayfield, Deb Alberts and Aileen Kesler. The village opens Dec. 11.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / Whidbey News-Times

It took a homecoming by a Home Depot manager to bring Christmas Village back to Oak Harbor.

For many years the village — a popular destination for families to get in the holiday spirit — was sponsored by the Oak Harbor Soroptimists International.

Aileen Kesler, a Home Depot employee working on renewing the experience, remembers taking her kids, born in the ‘80s, to Christmas Village when it was located in the Girl Scout Haven building at Holland Gardens park. “My kids were very young, but I’ve still got the pictures,” she said.

The village moved several times during the years, from downtown to the Blue Fox Drive-in outside of town on Monroe Landing Road. When the Soroptimists gave it up in favor of other endeavors, Blue Fox owner Darrell Bratt bought the Christmas decorations and put them in storage.

A few years later, James Croft came back to his home town to manage the Home Depot store. When he returned after several years working elsewhere for Home Depot, he discovered Christmas Village was history.

“I grew up here as a kid, and when I came back it wasn’t here any more,” he said. With warm memories of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, free cider and a petting zoo, he wanted the newest generation to share the experience.

He got together with the Blue Fox owner and they decided to recreate history. By last Wednesday, the metal building at the historic outdoor theater was already filled with Christmas trees and other decorations, and the sound system was spewing out holiday tunes.

Over the weekend, another Saturday work party added more outdoor decorations, arranged for animals to be brought in, and tuned up the miniature train that chugs around the drive-in grounds.

Croft said he had no trouble recruiting workers. “A lot of people are pretty excited about it,” he said.

Deb Alberts, another Home Depot employee, said visitors can expect all the old attractions, including visits with Santa, cookies, cider, coffee and animals. It’s all free, except for a nominal train ride charge. Any proceeds will be donated to the Help House food bank.

“We only took it over two months ago,” Alberts said, scanning what had been accomplished in that short time.

Yes, children, there is a Santa, and you can once again find him at Christmas Village.

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