By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – Cheerful holiday tableaus, a Festival of Trees and the perennial Lincoln Park Train Club display greeted guests Nov. 26 during the opening night of Fantasyland at the Kennedy Memorial Building.
The display runs through Christmas Eve at the center, 3240 Ferris St. Admission is $2, and the venue is open 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shortened schedule on Christmas Eve.
City Councilmember Jason Behr said it’s the second Fantasyland since COVID-19, but even a pandemic can’t keep people away from the holiday wonderland, which attracts multi-generational visitors.
“Grandparents remember coming here when they were a child, and now they have their grandchildren with them,” he said.
Behr said Mayor Michael Higgins was visiting with his two grandchildren.
Outgoing state Representative and incoming Wayne County Commissioner Cara Clemente said attending Fantasyland is a tradition for her family, as well.
“We started bringing our children here when they were little,” she said.
Clemente said she spent some time as a volunteer setting up Fantasyland this year, helping to assemble the penguin room on the upper level.
“It was really neat to see the backside of it,” she said.
Clemente said the entrance has changed and Santa is on the ground floor this year, but she thinks it has worked out well.
She said her favorite displays include “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas,” Frosty the Snowman and the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.”
“They have been around for so long and they are traditions,” Clemente said. “I really like that.”
She said the manger scene, which was donated by Ford Motor Co., used to be displayed at Christmastime in the Ford Rotunda until November 1962, when the iconic structure was destroyed by fire.
Clemente said Sven from “Frozen” is on display outside of the penguin room, a recent donation from a Fantasyland fan who was no longer able to use it himself.
“I think for people that have been here when they were younger, it is nice for them to come back,” she said. “It is a totally different experience every time you come.”
Clemente said the proceeds from the Festival of Trees portion of the event will benefit the Lincoln Park Train Club this year.
Club secretary Bob Adler greeted guests on the second level Nov. 26, where an extensive train layout is on display year-round.
He said the club has been in the city since 2006, is active year-round and is open to the public 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at no charge, every month except January.
Adler said the group has three gauges of railroading: Lionel O-gauge, American Flyer S-gauge and the common HO-gauge.
He said the group will hold a buy and swap Train Show 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 26 at the Kennedy Memorial Building, with a $5 admission.
Adler said he and his fellow train enthusiasts are all kids at heart.
“We have four members that are in their 80s and a bunch of us are in our 70s, and we have a few that are in their 50s, and a few that are in their 40s, but not too many of those,” he said. “But we have kids – some sons, and we have a great grandma that brought her little guy in.”
Adler said a love of model railroading is something that is often passed down through generations in a family.
“It’s your own little world,” he said. “People have a layout, like these, at home or at the club. The trains belong to the members, but the layouts here belong to the club.”
Adler said the members bring their own trains to run on the tracks, but the layouts at the Kennedy Memorial Building are a joint effort that club members build together.
“What we are creating is a miniature world,” he said.
Adler said the display currently has many Christmas touches, including Christmas-themed ceramic-type buildings, as well as a parade with Santa Claus in it.
“We definitely have a Christmas atmosphere, with trees and carolers throughout the layout,” he said. “We have a lot of fun when we’ve got people coming in here to see what we have done. We enjoy having people come all year long.”