You can’t miss it as you drive along Highway 3 through Martins River. It’s Santaville, a fantasy landscape of lights around and behind the home of Eddie Aulenbach. During the Christmas season, he spends his evenings in his Santa suit, happy to give tours through the grounds: the little cottages and chapel and Santa’s Workshop, all filled with vintage toys and decorations.
My son and I had a tour of Santaville a few years ago, and he was enchanted, though a little scared to say very much to Santa so close to Christmas. Home grown entertainment to be sure, without the production values of a big mall display. But the magic of coloured lights on a dark, dark night, a personal tour from St. Nick himself, and a little stuffed toy (previously loved) at the end of the visit, are enough to please a small child. I enjoyed seeing decorations and toys dating from my own childhood. And it’s free.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Santa. In 2002, Aulenbach was charged with unsightly premises by the Municipality. (I’ll concur that the charm of the place is more powerful at night than during the daytime.) The charges didn’t stick, and the Municipality got a lump of coal in its Christmas stocking. Then in 2004, the century-old house burned down in an uninsured fire. The local community held fundraisers, and a generous person donated a mobile home, and so Santaville was saved again – earning some very good children extra special presents the following Christmas.
Do you have childhood memories of Santaville, or have you taken your children through it? If so, please leave a comment below.
(Photos taken with a Fujifilm FinePix F1800.)