HUMBOLDT - If Santa had a home away from home - there's a good chance that it might look a bit like the display created by the Noon Kiwanis Club of Humboldt/Dakota City.
Santa would after all want to surround himself with skating bears, electric trains, dozens of elves, a cozy bed, cookie bakers and a stall for Rudolph.
Jerry Kramer, a member of the club, said it took the group several months of volunteer work to get everything up and running. That includes putting in some news displays and moving a few around.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Jo Kollmorgen, of Humboldt, poses for her granddaughter Ella Johnson, of Coralville, as the pair visit the Noon Kiwanis Club of Humboldt/Dakota City Christmasland display. It was Johnson’s first visit to the display, and she photographed it extensively.
"We have ice-skating bears and one ice fishing," he said.
They're part of a set of displays purchased by the club.
"They're spread out," he said. "We couldn't get it all in one cubicle."
While some of the displays have changed since last year, one thing remains a constant.
"The train will stay forever," he said.
Justin Thompson, of Ankeny and his son Ari, 2, stopped at watched them going around in their circles, headlights shining just like a real train at night.
They were both smiling.
"He loves trains," Thompson said. "He's loving this."
Monica Albertson, of St. Paul, Minn. was enjoying the displays with her daughter, Iylah, 10 months.
She said she hasn't seen the display for about 10 years. She grew up in the area and visits were an annual event.
Will it be again?
"Now that we have kids," she said.
She's also a fan of the trains and said that as an adult, it's a different experience.
Kiwanis Club member Kent Thompson is on his third year as Santa's temporary stand-in. He said he enjoys the children's reactions when they smile.
He notices a lot of people where a visit to Christmasland is a family tradition.
"I see second and third generation a lot," he said.
Santa's chair is directly across from a large collection of old Polaroids and prints displayed on the wall, images of past visits to Santa dating back to the mid-1990s
"We have people who come back and look for their pictures," he said.
Ella Johnson, 10, of Coralville, was visiting for the first time with her grandmother, Jo Kollmorgen, of Humboldt.
Johnson liked what she saw.
"I think it's pretty amazing," she said after recording all the scenes on her digital camera.
"I'm going to show them to my mom," she said.
Her favorite was the train set as well.
Kollmorgen said she hadn't seen the evolving displays for a few years.
"It was with my kids," she said.
She was enjoying being able to share it with her granddaughter.
"It's nostalgic," she said. "It's what my imagination made me think Christmas was as a kid."
The 30 year-old tradition - it was first open in 1982 - can be seen on Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and then 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. It's open each weekday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The display can be seen on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Admission is free, free will donations are accepted to cover operating costs and additions to the display. It's located on First Avenue South of City Hall.