Christmas Park started in 1998 as an ongoing project for Patsy and Garland Pool of Athens but is now a full-time commitment attracting thousands.
Visitors from across the country and around the world drive in to see the lit decorative displays of cheerful sights and sounds along the park’s winding three-mile tour.
Children shout with delight and talk excitedly as they ride through the park and they see their favorite characters and movie scenes decorated in Christmas lights.
Most of the 2,000 figures are cartoon characters cut from wood and painted brightly while others are more realistic, sometimes featuring live actors.
On Thanksgiving Day an actor in a turkey costume waved at passersby. At other times visitors can see a live Santa, the Grinch or Olaf from the movie Frozen.
Some scenes are there for adults, too. A life-sized Elvis appears to play guitar amidst blue lights while his “Blue Christmas” plays in the air.
Toward the tour’s end, tributes to entertainers alternate with a new display of flags for each branch of the military while patriotic music plays in the background.
Owners Patsy and Garland Pool treat their park, known by many locals as the Land of Lights, as a labor of love that draws their family and kin working together through the holiday season from 6 to 10 p.m., every day from Nov. 10 to Jan. 3.
Though some things have changed in the 24 years since Christmas Park opened, the park’s annual growth is constant.
The Pools add more figurines, more scenes, more attractions and even more food items at the concession stand each season.
One of the new displays this year features Alvin and the Chipmunks singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
Patsy said she continues adding displays to attract new visitors and raise more funds for maintaining the park, which is a costly chore. She works throughout the summer in 100 degree temperatures to trim grass and she hires an employee to repaint the wooden figurines in the off-season to keep each one looking good for the holidays. Workers are also removing several dead trees this season.
“All year, every year, we work hard to make our park a magical Christmas memory for the littles, and the child in all the rest of us,” Pool said. “We’ve added lots this year, and we’re so excited for you to see our additions.”
Garland also owns a swimming pool business named Pools by Pool but dedicates most of his holidays to the Christmas Park.
This year the Pools built a new indoor gift shop people can visit after the tour and purchase their own Christmas toys and decorations. The shop is part of an outdoor Christmas park where people get out of their cars, take group photos, and enjoy treats.
The Pools’ children and grandchildren come to work at the park during the 54 days it’s open each holiday season.
Jobs for the 10 to 12 mostly family employees range from taking tickets and directing traffic to manning the concession stand, gift shop and Photos With Santa booth.
Conventional holiday lights have mostly been replaced with LED lights that use less electricity but cost more to replace. Even so, the park’s electricity costs thousands of dollars a month.
Admission to the park begins at $25 per vehicle and up for vehicles with more passengers such as passenger vans, limousines and tour buses.
The park posts strict rules on signs in English and Spanish and expects full cooperation, such as no riding in the back of pick-ups and no standing vehicles along the route.
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