Garfield couple’s light display supports food shelf
By Jillian Kellerman
Three acres, over a mile of extension cords, and too many lights for anyone to count…
This is the fifth year that Al and Deb Paulzine of Garfield have opened their property up to the public to allow them to walk through their large display of Christmas lights up close. In addition, “Paulzine’s Winter Wonderland,” as they call it, is in its fourth year of collecting donations for the Outreach Food Shelf.
Paulzine’s Winter Wonderland offers a free walk-through Christmas light display with music, three manger scenes, numerous Santas, a full-size sleigh to sit in for photos, an ice-skating pond, a bonfire to warm up as you’re exploring, and a warming shed where they serve hot chocolate and apple cider. You can take your picture with a full-size Santa, and Santa himself visits a couple weekends in December.
While the walk-through light display is free, cash and food donations are accepted for the local Outreach Food Shelf in Alexandria.
This Winter Wonderland is for everyone – adults and kids alike! Al recalled, two years ago they had a neighbor who was a driver for Knute Nelson. He had a bus full of elderly people that couldn’t walk or get around very well, so Al had them pull the bus up into the yard so they could see more of everything. Al went on the bus, sat down with them, and told them a little bit about what they had. In doing so, he said they felt a little more connection than just being stuck on a bus.
“They can’t see everything, but at least they can see more than if they were just out there (at the end of the driveway in the cul de sac),” Deb said.
Last year, the National Honor Society came out to help serve the hot chocolate and apple cider. They’ve hosted youth groups and foreign exchange students from 13 different countries. Deb said the foreign exchange students weren’t used to the cold, some have never seen snow, let alone Christmas lights in the snow, and many spent a lot of time in the warming shed. They even had a marriage proposal down at the Arbor by the pond a couple years ago!
“We like to change it up or add things to it every year,” Al said. The winter wonderland has grown a lot over the years, and they now have over a mile of extension cords. To give you an idea of just how many lights … Al said just one tree can have over 1,700 lights. He also added, “If you have an extra week, you’re welcome to come out and count.”
Paulzines recognized Geyer Rental and Hilltop Lumber, both of Alexandria, for lending them the use of a lift to help reach the 50-foot pine trees, a big cross, and other high trees and structures. Set up takes three months, starting in August, and it takes another month to take it all down.
“The year of Covid (2020) was by far the biggest year. That was a really cool year because people were so excited to be able to be outside and doing something with their kids—there was no school, there were no sports, there were no activities of any sort, the churches weren’t even hardly open, so people couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. They were working remotely or not working at all, so then there were just tons of people out here,” Deb said. Al added there were easily over 5,000 people that year and their hope is to have 8,000-10,000 this year.
“It’s kind of like the midway at the fair when it gets really close to Christmas … hundreds and hundreds of people,” said Al. Deb also said that even in the brutal cold they’ll see people walking through the yard braving the weather – “Sometimes I’ll just open the patio door and say ‘enjoy.’”
Over the last three years, Paulzine’s Winter Wonderland has raised $8,968.50 and 3,578 pounds of food for the Outreach Food Shelf. Their Christmas wish this year is to exponentially grow that amount.
Paulzine’s Winter Wonderland is located at 2655 Deer Run NW in Garfield. They are open Thanksgiving weekend through Jan. 1, from 5-9 p.m. For more information or to find out when Santa will be visiting, follow their Facebook page at Paulzine’s Winter Wonderland.