LACONIA — The 41st annual Christmas Village opened its doors at the Community Center last night and there were many familiar faces helping make that happen, including long-time volunteer Sharon Cavanaugh, who is in charge of the group which greets children and their families at the entryway and keeps them busy and entertained until they make their way upstairs to enjoy cookies and lemonade before meeting with Santa Claus.
As children gather to wait their turn to enter the village, they are entertained with face painting, games, crafts, movies and even "Santa's Jail" until it is their turn to go upstairs.
"It's so amazing to see their faces light up when they come inside and see what's here," said Cavanaugh of the young children, filled with anticipation, as they enter the magical world created at Christmas Village.
She said that the Bolduc brothers — Armand and Ernie — and their friend Bob Hamel, who each year have led the team of volunteers, are an indispensable part of continuing the tradition of the village.
"Armand is the person who makes everything happen," says Cavanaugh.
Ernie Bolduc says that it takes around 8,000 man hours to set up and take down the village and that there are 60 to 70 elves who help construct the village and provide hospitality for the estimated 2,500 children who attend each year.
Also helping out were Sylvia and Dave Detscher, who have been running the Christmas Cafe, where cookies and pink lemonade are served, for over 20 years.
"We're sort of crowd control. We watch over the elves serving and keep the line moving. When we first brought our children here thee were no chairs and tables for the children to sit down at while they had their cookies. Whoever thought of setting up the tables certainly had a good idea," said Sylvia.
Ashley Paquin, 16, attends Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith, and is in her third year as a Christmas Village volunteer. "It's a lot of fun. My parents brought me here when I was little and I've always thought it was a great experience. I enjoy volunteering and being a part of something like this," said Paquin.
Ray Lakeman, 85, says says he was been a volunteer for about eight years and is one of three elves whose job it is to sand down the rough edges of wooden ornaments which are then painted with the names of he children as they pass through the workshop area.
"It's worth it to come here and give back to the community." says Lakeman, who says that he still has fond memories from his childhood of the crowds of people Christmas shopping in Downtown Laconia before urban renewal. "There were no malls back then and you'd run into everybody you knew on Friday nights out shopping. It was a beautiful sight, especially when there was a little snow," said Lakeman.
Christmas Village will be open to the public tonight from 6 until 8 p.m.; and on Saturday and Sunday , from 2 until 5 p.m. The village will be open to senior citizens only on Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon, and to those with disabilities on Sunday between 10 a.m. and noon.
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