Christmas spirit keeps Santa’s Village open

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A scene from the Candy Land room in Santa’s Village at the Parks and Recreation Department building on Rubber Avenue in Naugatuck.

NAUGATUCK — Kim Eyre carefully places a grapefruit-sized gum drop into a Candy Land scene while a one-foot tall Santa Claus waves an electric candle.

Santa will once again entertain kids in his village, despite budget cuts which eliminated the Park and Recreation Department’s funds for the event.

Santa’s Village, located at the Parks and Recreation Department building on Rubber Avenue, will host Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph, as it has for over 30 years.

Since Santa’s Village lost town funding, other individuals and organizations have come forward with donations to keep the village going, said Recreation Director Eyre, who has been working on the Village for the past 18 years.

“People have stepped up,” she said.

Santa’s mailbox is open for business.

The Emblem Club recently helped decorate the theater room, where kids can watch holiday cartoons. Students and other volunteers also helped decorate.

Eyre spends about a month to fill the building with scenes of snow-covered villages, toy trains, and Christmas characters in each room. The Village will look a little nicer this year, with recently refinished walls and wood floors, said Eyre.

Several thousand kids come through the village each year, from Naugatuck and surrounding towns, Eyre said.

When kids enter the village, they’re either very excited about seeing Santa or they’re very scared, said Eyre.

“Santa is very understanding and very good with the children,” she said.

Gingy, the gingerbread man from Shrek, will make a special appearance this year.

As children make their way through the six rooms in the village, they can tell Santa their Christmas wishes, get a candy cane from Frosty, watch the miniature train chug through scenes from Charley Brown’s Christmas, take a trip down Candy Land lane, wonder at the miniature holiday village, meet Rudolf, and watch Christmas cartoons.

Outside, displays offer more photo opportunities. In the 1990s, Jene Hertel made a lot of scenes outside, said Eyre.
“They did some beautiful stuff,” she said.

Animated figures bought 30 years ago still wave to visitors, though some are in need of repair, said Eyre. Over the years, Santa’s Village has collected hundreds of dolls and decorations, some of which could now be considered antiques.

The village will be open from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10-12 and 17-23. Admission is a non-perishable food item for the food bank. Photos with Santa are available for $5 or you can bring your own camera. The village will serve free hot chocolate, coffee and cider.

Eyre said that children enjoy the village.

“Once they go through it, they want to go again,” she said.

The Parks and Recreation Department is also collecting letters to Santa, which he will answer personally for each child.

The Parks and Recreation Department happily accepts monetary donations and Christmas decorations.