The Central Jersey ‘Winter Wonderland’ you’ve got to see
While working on the story of the Lights on Glendale in Manalapan I was turned on by Vanessa to the Winter Wonderland at Maple Leaf Farms located at 525 US Highway 9 in Manalapan. I spoke with Bobby Spillman who runs the place with his wife Rita.
How long have you been decorating for the holidays?
'This is our sixth year putting together the 6000-square-foot Christmas walk-through. I started collecting vintage Christmas animated figures that used to be in storefront windows from all over the country from the 1940s through the 1970s. I have now gathered over 500 of these figures."
"Our Christmas walk-through is all about an old fashion Christmas. We do 15 large scenes with pictures with Santa at the end. In one area we have a snow Machine that really thrills the children."
"We have Disney figures that aren’t supposed to exist such as Snow White and the seven dwarfs Mickey and Donald Duck."
How has the reaction been?
"One of the greatest rewards of all this work is seeing the reaction of the children and adults alike. We like to say our walk-through is where adults can relive their childhood memories and children can create new ones."
"We also have vintage Christmas advertisements hanging on the walls as you walk throughout, A time when you got your wife a toaster for Christmas and she was thrilled! Also Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are advertising chesterfield cigarettes."
I have a friend who plays Santa who looks right out of miracle on 34th St, when he’s not playing Santa I do.
Any cool stories or anecdotes of people who have come through to see it?
"One quick story is of a child we see every year who swears on the naughty list, he walks and looks right at me and says let’s get this straight you’re not the real Santa… Right in front of all the other children..."
"I proceeded to ask him what he wanted for Christmas and he said a toy of his favorite superhero, 'The Hulk'. I then replied how about a little Christmas magic to prove I am the real Santa? After he just shrugged and I told him I would make his favorite superhero appear on one of my forearms, so I slapped my right forearm and then slapped my left forearm and then rolled up my sleeve to reveal a Hulk tattoo that I got years ago. His mouth dropped wide-open, the other children cheered and his mother started to cry."
"After he left his mother ran back in to thank me and said they wanted him to believe just one more year, I told her he’s probably going to believe until he’s 18 now."
What sets Maple Leaf Farms apart from other garden centers?
"Every year we try to outdo the year before and add new figures and scenes. All the figures I get are from the past and some are very old but almost all need restoration which I do throughout the year replacing their motors sometimes they’re close and sometimes paint touchups."
"We also have a waterfall and pond scene where people throw in money to make a Christmas wish and we donate all this money to the Monmouth County SPCA, last year we raised over $2500 for them. We also do special hours for handicapped adult groups from a local home."
"Our final days for this year are this Wednesday Thursday Friday and a few hours on Christmas Eve."
While you're there, you can also pick up some great holiday gifts.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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