For Christmas Storybook Land volunteer Joyce Moreira, Monday was the “best day of the year” as hundreds of veterans, seniors and people with special needs visited the 41st annual event at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.
“Wow! This is the highlight of our whole season for me,” Moreira said. “We get to be with special citizens from the whole Willamette Valley — from the coast to Portland. We’ll probably have more than 650 guests today.”
Christmas Storybook Land opened to the public Friday and will run through Dec. 15.
“Our goal is to provide these folks with a very cheery Christmas,” Moreira said. “We work all year long for a day like this. We want to make their Christmas extra special.”
Moreira thanks the Linn County Board of Commissioners for providing the fairgrounds free of charge every year and the many volunteers who assist with the show, especially on this special day.
“The Marine Corps Toys for Tots folks are here today helping especially with the veterans,” Moreira said.
Moreira said volunteers also help push wheelchairs.
“We have 30 wheelchairs,” Moreira said. “Fisher Funeral Home and Love Inc. provide us with six chairs each.”
Moreira said her heart is warmed by the smiles on the faces of the guests as they receive a bag of candy and a Christmas gift — a calendar or a pack of playing cards.
“For some of these people, this is really the highlight of their Christmas,” she said.
Guests are also provided with lap blankets and handmade mittens to keep them warm, since the buildings are not heated.
Doors opened at 10 a.m. and within 30 minutes, buses and vans had dropped off more than 250 guests, according to volunteer Dee Farrier of Jefferson. The vehicles park inside the fairgrounds horse barn so passengers don’t have to be exposed to the weather.
Farrier has been a volunteer for about five years.
“It’s fun. Great,” she said.
Fellow volunteer Andrea Barnhurst of Tangent was working the front entrance with Farrier.
“I’ve played an elf, Mrs. Claus, a pirate and I like to help out with the senior and veterans day,” Barnhurst said as the peppy tune “Run, Run Rudolph” played in the background.
Linda Morris has been a volunteer since 1986 and was helping guide vans into the building.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s wonderful. Someday I’ll be a senior citizen.”
Guests were busy taking photos in front of displays and enjoying more than 1,200 decorated Christmas trees and the cheery holiday smells that filled the air.
“Oh, my goodness,” one guest said as he saw the giant holiday train display.
On Peter Pan Street alone, guests were treated to colorful scenes from movies such as "101 Dalmatians," "A Bug’s Life" and snowmen galore.
Cynthia Antrim is the activities director at Timberview Care Center.
“We brought nine people today,” Antrim said. “We come every year and it’s always breathtaking. Our residents really enjoy all of the Christmas bears.”
Antrim said the many volunteers make it all possible because they help move the residents through the building.
“The volunteers do such an outstanding job,” Antrim said.
82-year-old Lloyd Goode is one of the residents and he said he liked all of the displays.
Fellow resident Carlene Sears, 81, said the displays weren’t just for guys.
“I’m having a ball,” Sears said. “I like everything here.”
Certified Nursing Assistant Patty Thomson was so impressed she planned to bring her children back Monday evening.
“Oh my gosh, this is wonderful,” Thomson said. “I like it all.”
Longtime volunteer Jeanetta Mickler said Monday was one of her favorite days of the year, but she also enjoys the school tours that will take place Tuesday through Friday.
Admission is free, although donations of nonperishable foods are welcomed for FISH of Albany.
Hours are: Monday through Thursday, 6:30–8:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–8:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 8 and 15, 2–8:30 p.m.
To learn more, visit www.christmasstorybookland.org.