LACONIA — "It looks like everyone is having fun," remarked Ernie Bolduc, who as an elf called "Tinsel", last night welcomed scores of children to the opening of Christmas Village for the 39th year. "It never changes," he smiled.
The Bolducs, Ernie and his brother Armand, the elf "Twinkle," along with their friend Bob Hamel have been the mainstays of Christmas Village since the festival began in 1975. Each year they oversee the transformation of the Community Center from a basketball court to an enchanted land, alive with the spirit of Christmas.
For the next three days nearly 3,000 children will pass through the village, beginning in the basement where they wait turn through the attractions upstairs while face painting, playing games, learning crafts and watching movies under the watchful eyes of some of the 60 or 70 elves. Upstairs they will share a moment with Santa and savor pink lemonade and cookies at his sidewalk cafe amid the lights and decorations of the Christmas season.
Every child will leave with a personalized ornament, a special gift and a personal letter from Santa bearing the postmark "Christmas Village, Laconia NH 03246-1/2. And for $3 they can have their picture taken with Santa and his wife.
Morgan Johnston and her brother Jack began coming to Christmas Village as young children. This year, her 13th as a volunteer, she is the mayor of the village, while Jack, as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, gambols about entertaining her visitors. Morgan, a sophomore in college preparing to become a veterinarian, said that she began in Santa's House and has since played every role in the village. Jack, a high school senior, was the first toy soldier. "We went through as little kids," Johnston said, "and when my mother saw they were looking for help we volunteered. "
For some years many of those among the first to enjoy the Christmas Village have been bringing their children to share the joy they experienced at what has become one of the city's most enduring traditions and popular spectacles.
The Christmas Village will open this evening from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.
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