It takes a village...
Now in its third year and sponsored by Hilltop Homes (www.facebook.com/pages/Hilltop-Homes), the event is well on its way to becoming (IMHO) legendary. Dunlap and company work tirelessly to create this fantastical display, replete with well over 100,000 lights, snowmen, reindeer, a working train that runs through the village and a cocoa and cookies station. In addition, families had an opportunity to have their picture taken with the fat man inside Santa’s workshop and this year, the great team at Thunder 102 radio (www.thunder102.com) provided a live broadcast from the event.
DJs Paul Ciliberto and Mike Sakell were kind enough to invite yours truly to stop by the Thunder 102 tent, so with Dharma (the wonder dog) in tow, I made my way, guided by the zillion lights illuminating the display and met up with the guys and special guests, musical brothers Ken and Barry Somerville (www.somerville brothers.com), who performed holiday classics for the continual stream of visitors who had heard that Santa was in town.
It may take a village, but I have to give Dunlap and family their props. Although the first to acknowledge that he “couldn’t possibly do it alone,” (and the assistance is considerable), it’s Dunlaps’ vision that has become a testament to what a community can accomplish when banded together in the name of “good will toward men.” Having stopped by earlier in the day before the magic began, I spoke with Dunlap, who gave me a little “back stage” tour before the crowd began to swell. “We figure that by this time [the last weekend before Christmas] people are worn out from the hustle and bustle, and this is our way of giving something back. After running around, stuffing stockings and spending their hard-earned dollars, this two-day event (which is free of charge) is our way of giving to the community-at-large.”
Families were encouraged to drop off gifts for those in need (Toys for Tots) and several other sponsors have now hopped on board to assist. As I chatted on-air with the Thunder team, I was awestruck by the mountain of toys that appeared, the cozy fire that kids could warm their hands around as they stood on line, patiently waiting for their turn to see Santa and Mrs. Claus and the countless volunteers (many of whom were students from the area), all giving of their time and considerable effort in helping Dunlaps’ dream come to life.