Santa’s Workshop at Wickham Park a Storybook-Like Delight
Posted on December 22, 2014
Story & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
Santa’s Workshop at Wickham Park is a storybook-like delight. For more than 30 years, this annual event has been transforming a hilltop cabin at the park, located on the East Hartford and Manchester townline in Connecticut, into a holiday treat providing an authentic feeling of the North Pole and Christmas to some three generations of families.
“It’s about bringing (Christmas) back to old family values. It’s important to us that everything remains the same,” said Chelsea Lowe, a staff member at the park.
According to Lowe, Santa’s Workshop has welcomed nearly 150,000 visitors since it first opened and is seeing third generations of families return. She added that the philosophy of simplicity and authenticity comes from the top, Jeff Maron, park director.
Santa Claus, the main attraction, is on hand to greet children for about ten days before Christmas until December 23, each holiday season.
“Yes, he has to leave after the 23rd because he has a lot of work to do,” said Lowe.
After a fresh snowfall on Sunday, December 21, visitors clad in jackets, sweaters, hats, scarves and mittens waited in an outdoor line as snow was gleefully tossed about by some of the youngsters. Once inside a warm, crackling fire awaited in a stone fireplace adorned with a hanging moose head above it wearing a red and white tasseled-cap, and watching over Santa’s elves who were hard at work, as well as, an array of finished toys – including a train set that moved around a track again and again. Nearby, Mrs. Claus gave out hot chocolate and cookies.
A 15-foot Christmas Tree, contributed by Cavanna’s Farm in South Glastonbury, was beautifully decorated. Everywhere touches of the season could be seen such as signs alerting visitors to a reindeer crossing, hanging ice skates and a reminder that Santa knows who’s been naughty or nice.
Admission is free, however, donations and nonperishables for local food pantries are welcomed and were being accepted in an appreciative manner.
“We accept non-perishables to donate to MARC and food pantries, ” noted Lowe.
MARC, Inc. is a Manchester-based non-profit agency that supports people with disabilities.
This was the fifth year attending Santa’s Workshop for Marla’s and Jared’s family – Braelyn and Landon of East Hartford. Four-year-old Juliana Mayer and her sister Isla, 2, in pretty matching dresses, came with their parents Charissa and Joe.
For Sunny Foote and her family of Marlborough, Santa’s Workshop at Wickham Park has been a longstanding tradition. And, tradition is something very important to her sons Matt and Nathaniel Foote, who are direct descendants of one of the original settlers of the town of Colchester, Nathaniel Foote, for whom the youngest boy was named.
Matt, by the way, displayed a great singing voice as he sang along to the holiday carols being played at the workshop.
What keeps them coming back?
“It’s wholesome – not glitzy. Very traditional,” said Sunny Foote.
For locals, and travelers who find their way to Connecticut during the holiday season, Santa’s Workshop at Wickham Park is a must stop. It is sure to add to a Merry Christmas for kids of all ages!
Santa’s Workshop at Wickham Park, 1329 West Middle Turnpike, is located on the East Hartford/ Manchester townline in central Connecticut. Easy access from exit 60 off I-84. It generally runs for about ten days before Christmas – until December 23 – and is open weekdays from 3-6 p.m. and weekends 1-5 p.m., 860-528-0856. Go to http://www.wickhampark.org for more information.