The holidays are here again! And that means I’ll keep a list of gifts desired and purchased in my iPhone. My kids will send emails to Santa. On Christmas Eve, we’ll track his progress around the globe in real-time on our iPad. I’ve downloaded apps to find the best online sales. And we’ll fill our DVR with loads of holiday movies to enjoy commercial-free at our convenience.
Christmas has officially gone high tech.
Except at Santa’s Castle in Storm Lake.
What started in 1962 when the local chamber of commerce executive purchased and displayed a set of animated elves has grown to a collection of more than 70 animated holiday characters valued at more than $300,000. Some of these treasures date back to the early 1900s and not one is controlled in a massive server room or by a fancy app on a remote mobile device. These ice skating bears, pillow-fighting goats, tail-wagging reindeer and cookie-baking dogs (to name a few) operate thanks to good old electric motors, levers, bent wires, timers, clockworks, gears, cams and switches. Volunteers dedicate countless hours to keeping these intricate animations in top working order.
I don’t know when my parents started taking me to Santa’s Castle, but I’m sure it wasn’t long after my birth in 1974. And we visited every year that I can remember, mesmerized by the twinkling lights, festive music, and all the sights and sounds of this indoor holiday extravaganza. Now that I have young children of my own, I treasure the opportunity to take them to Santa’s Castle and watch them wonder at the same spectacle I enjoyed as a child.
A few years ago Santa’s Castle moved into Storm Lake’s former Carnegie Library. And while the location has changed since my first visits, the magic remains. Today Santa’s Castle is aglow with the colors of 60 Christmas trees, an intricate O-gauge railroad display and, of course, the old-fashioned animated characters. At the end of the visit, children are invited to sit with Santa and receive a personalized, autographed book.
As my boys sat on Santa’s lap, I pulled out my iPhone and captured images and a digital recording of their conversation. Before we’d left the building I’d texted photos of Santa’s Castle to my parents and uploaded them to Facebook. I committed to writing this blog.
Christmas has gone high tech, indeed.
Take time to rewind this year at Santa’s Castle. The display is open through December 27th. You can check the calendar here.