By GRACE GADDY
Before Santa flies back to the North Pole to tend to important business, he'll be here today and tomorrow for the last weekend of Santa’s Magical Workshop and Wonderland Depot, located at 201 W. Oak St. in downtown Palestine.
The interactive exhibit takes visitors through an indoor winter wonderland filled with gingerbread, snow-covered trees, miniature trains and educational displays, highlighted by a visit to Santa's Parlor.
Laura Westgate, Main Street Manager, said while this is the sixth year for Santa to set up shop in downtown Palestine, it's the first time the Texas State Railroad Society has teamed up with the Main Street program to offer a new sort of magical experience, with educational artifacts to boot.
“Santa's Workshop is a special place for children to come in and experience a different atmosphere each year. This year we're focusing on our trains and train history,” Westgate said. “We've created a winter wonderland with peppermint trees and trains and all the flashing lights that we can find.”
Several educational artifacts and displays from the Texas State Railroad will be available to view, as well as a 42-foot wooden model train and an interpretive display highlighting the city's police and fire departments.
But the best part, Westgate said, is when the children enter Santa's Parlor.
“Our whole concept was to create an experience that they can't get anywhere else,” she said.
After Santa's elf has called their name, children can venture behind the curtain into a magical parlor of lush red velvet walls filled with Christmas trees, glitter, gifts and of course, the jolly character himself.
Westgate said it's a wonderful experience because the children have more time to spend with Santa.
“It's not that mall experience where they run you through really fast,” Westgate said.
From there, tables will be set up outside the parlor where children can write a letter to Mr. Claus and personally deliver it. Lee Loveless Photography will provide photos with Santa for $5 each, which are printed onsite.
Other attractions at the workshop include an electric train that toddlers can ride, a central area with toys and coloring, an East Texas forest industry exhibit and the variety of displays from the Texas State Railroad Society. “Life on the Neches,” a pictorial display featuring the route of the Polar Express Train ride, will be available for viewing, as well as the movie The Polar Express, which will run continuously through the day. Visitors can then wrap up their experience at the gift shop, where they can pick up a wooden train whistle, among other treasures.
Santa’s Magical Workshop & Wonderland Depot will be open today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $1.
For more information, call 903-723-3014 or find a full schedule of holiday events at: www.visitpalestine.com.