‘Downriver’s finest holiday display’ is an indoor winter wonderland; proceeds benefit Fish & Loaves Food Pantry
By DAVE GORGON
For the Sunday Times
TAYLOR – Santa’s Magic Forest opens for the season during the city’s Winterfest, Nov. 30, at the Heritage Park Activity Building, 12111 Pardee Road.
“Downriver’s finest holiday display” welcomes visitors Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22. Friday hours are 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday hours are 3 to 8 p.m. on opening day, noon to 8 p.m. Dec. 7 and 1 to 8 p.m. Dec. 14 and 21. Sunday hours are 1 to 7 p.m. Dec. 1, noon to 7 p.m. Dec. 8 and 1 to 7 p.m. Dec. 15 and 22. Opening day, Nov. 30, will feature a Santa Parade at 5 p.m.
The Magic Forest is an indoor winter wonderland that features hundreds of animated characters, about two dozen different magical and heart-warming Christmas scenes and many light displays – plus Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Some of the scenes were once displayed at the famous J.L. Hudson’s Department Store and the Ford Rotunda.
The Christmas kingdom is built and operated by volunteers from the Fish & Loaves Community Food Pantry, which is celebrating its 11th anniversary. All proceeds support the pantry’s mission of “Ensuring No One Goes Hungry.”
Fish & Loaves provides food throughout the year to hungry people in Taylor and the surrounding communities of Allen Park, Brownstown Township, Dearborn Heights, Romulus, Southgate and Woodhaven.
General admission to the Magic Forest is $3 per person— cash only. Children 3 and younger are admitted free. Photos with Santa Claus will be provided by Rosecrans Picture Perfect Photography for $8. New this year: a photo with “the Grinch” can be taken for $8.
The city created the first Santa’s Magic Forest in the late 1980s, supplementing and enhancing the holiday scenes with many additional figures and structures purchased through Bronner’s of Frankenmuth and constructed by Parks and Recreation employees and volunteers.
More recently, in cooperation with the city, Fish & Loaves volunteers have taken on the work of annually reassembling and hosting the Magic Forest to benefit the food pantry, which is at 25670 Northline Road. More than 5,000 visitors of all ages are expected to visit the Magic Forest this holiday season.
The Fish & Loaves volunteers – mostly from the pantry, local churches, schools and civic organizations – are coordinated by Ron and Marion Bolen. The volunteers serve as guides and docents. Board member Sylvia Vella has served as setup coordinator.
Major sponsors of the Magic Forest are Masco and The Ford Fund. Other sponsors include Comcast, Patriot Plans, Peer and Associates Psychological Health and Wellness Services, E.W. Smith Insurance and the Wayne Metro Community Action Agency.
“Santa’s Magic Forest is a joy to behold – a true community treasure,” said the Rev. Geoffrey Drutchas, president of the Fish & Loaves Board of Directors and pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ in Taylor. “Seeing the excitement on the faces of visitors, both younger and older, is what the Christmas season is all about.”
Fish & Loaves was founded in 2008 and has emerged as the largest client-choice pantry in Michigan. Fish & Loaves assists thousands of households and individuals, including children, distributing more than 1.6 million pounds of free food annually. Visitors can shop six times per year in a setting organized like a grocery store, allowing for a sense of dignity, higher client satisfaction and less waste. Spending more than $25,000 monthly on food, Fish & Loaves relies on food drives sponsorships, donations, volunteers and fundraisers such as Santa’s Magic Forest.
“Santa’s Magic Forest is a fun tradition of the holiday season, plus an important fundraiser for Fish & Loaves,” said Mary Hollens, executive director of the food pantry. “As the cost of food and the number of hungry people increase annually, it’s more important than ever to meet those needs.
“Thank you to our volunteers, our sponsors, the city of Taylor and, of course, everyone who visits Santa’s Magic Forest.”
For more information about Santa’s Magic Forest or to volunteer throughout the season, call 734-374-5014.
For more information about Fish & Loaves, go to www.flcfp.org. Follow Fish & Loaves on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fishandloavesfoodpantry.