Mervin R. Whipple's
Christmas Wonderland

101 Pineville Road, Ballouville, Connecticut

Since this is officially the Christmas Issue... What Christmas would be complete without a trip to visit my neighbor, local celebrity of sorts, and previous member of the United Methodist Church of Attawaugan (Currently my home), Mervin R. Whipple. Mr. Christmas as he's known locally. Just up the road a piece is where this all happens. The month of December brings a constant parade of cars up normally quiet Ballouville Road. This is what they're going to see.

Click Here to stop the bells.


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     This is what you see as you drive slowly up Pineville Road in the line of cars waiting to park. There are plenty of volunteers with reflective orange vests, flashlights and two-way radios directing the procession.


     The view from a parking space right across the street, a lucky find. There can be as much as a quarter mile of cars along the side of this dark and normally deserted road.


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     This is the heart of the operation, the Everlast Memorials showroom and sales office. This is what Mr. Whipple does, besides 10 weeks of setup, and 16 weeks of putting away decorations each year.


     Every square foot of the property is decorated. It must be over an acre.


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     The entrance, with a line of people waiting to get in. Not just parents with children. Everyone comes here, year after year. Waiting in the cold, and more often than not, snow, is just part of local Christmas tradition. It's open the entire month of December.


     One of my favorite Christmas activities is bringing unsuspecting visitors "up the road a piece" to the Christmas Wonderland.


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Click Here to stop the bells. (Just in case you've had enough)

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     There's a half hour wait on the way in, as everyone files past a Santa Claus on the way to shake Merv's hand. He's pretty good at recognizing faces, which isn't easy when you see over a hundred thousand per year for ten seconds or so each.


     The Sales office is decorated inside and out. The line continues past Merv at the door to the "Post Office", where you can buy Christmas Wonderland Postcards. $5.00 for the complete set of twenty. You can mail postcards from here as well. They'll receive a special cancellation from Christmas Wonderland Station, Ballouville, CT 06233.


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     Inside is a nice break from the cold of waiting in line. Inside and out, there's movement, lights, music and people everywhere. It becomes a blur of sensory overload after a while.


     Outside into the cold again, just in time.


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     Not only is this the Christmas Wonderland, but it's the home of Whipple's Chapel, A small marble structure built to look like a small country church. In previous years, the chapel was heated, and made a nice warm-up stop on a tour of the grounds. It has standing room for a dozen people or so.


     Through the covered bridge and past the gazebo, up the gentle slope towards the wall of lights at the boundary of the property and the gallery of animated characters.


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Still with the bells huh? Click Here to stop them.


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     The displays are in their own glass front buildings, each the size of a small shed. Each has its own theme, complete with background scenery and animated characters.


     There are over 400 animated characters in all. Some are over 100 years old. Some custom made for the Christmas Wonderland.

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     There are lights everywhere. Over 100,000 in all. These are not the cheap mini lights either.


     A back drop of lights twenty feet tall surrounds the property. Merv admits his December electric bill is over three thousand dollars.


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     There are dozens of these displays. Each one a small building with a glass front, lights and power.


     Each display has a different theme, some simple, some very elaborate.

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What's with you and these lousy bells? Click Here to stop them.
Please... They're driving me crazy.


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     The back drop must be hundreds of feet long.


     "Herby doesn't like to make toys." There's even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


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     Some of the scenes are quite elaborate. It's impossible to get pictures without reflections in the glass. There's no place without lights.


     It takes 10 minutes to walk past all of the animated displays.


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     Merv says he has over half of a million dollars invested over thirty years. "I'll take fifty cents on a dollar" he says.


     Another view of Whipple's Chapel. Watch out for microphones in the mistletoe.

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I'm beggin' ya... Click Here to stop these rotten bells.
One more "jingle" and I can't be held responsible for what happens.


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     Back inside after completing a tour of the grounds.
You had your chance... Now you have to listen to them for the rest of the page.

     The lights and music give everything a surrealistic Quality.


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     It overwhelms and often frightens children.


     The whole experience brings to mind questions you just can't get answered in the ten seconds you get with Mervin Whipple. I'd like to know where he stores it all off season.


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     Looking in through the window, over the shoulder of an animated character looking back at a bewildered visitor.


     100,000 people visit in a good December, each for their own reasons. You have to see it once. After that... You keep coming up with reasons to go back.


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     I've gone at least once every year since the first. I'm not sure what my reasons are yet.


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For None of your furniture needs ... yet.




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