New owner will help Christmas City shine

Published 8:30 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

Some things are just meant to be.

No one believes that more than John Kendell.

The Buffalo, N.Y., native and Florida transplant never envisioned himself owning a theme park, especially a Christmas theme park in Alabama.

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But it was meant to be.

Six months ago, Kendell, who owns property in the Ozark area, was approached by a real estate agent regarding the Christmas City theme park in Ariton.

Kendell wasn’t too interested but, after several months, finally agreed to “go look.”

“I immediately fell in love with the place,” he said.

“I saw it as a place where Christian families could go to celebrate the holidays and share a wonderful experience. Christmas City is a place where parents can take their children and not worry about what they might be exposed to or about their safety.”

Christmas City is located on 77 acres and the Wonderland of Lights is a three-quarter-mile drive-through that is exactly that – a Christmas wonderland.

“We have redone 80 percent of the lights and we’ve added more lights so the drive-through is spectacular,” Kendell said.

Under Kendell’s ownership, Christmas City will have an expanded emphasis.

“Santa Claus is always at Christmas City, and we have a great lineup of singers each night and a variety of entertainment.”

And everyone enjoys pulling a rocking chairclose to the roaring fire and sitting back and relaxing while basking in the holiday atmosphere

All of the shops in the Christmas village are open and offer gifts ideas for everyone, even those who have everything.

“We have restaurants with prices to match McDonald’s and in a Christmas atmosphere,” Kendell said. “The menus include everything from chicken nuggets to chili pies and, of course, fries. We even have a sweet shop that has that good fattening food.”

Christmas City has something for everyone and Kendell said the theme park doesn’t forget or omit the real reason for the season, the birth of the Savior of the World.

Kendell was in Troy this week giving out free passes to Christmas City to kids in area schools.

Christmas is an exciting time for children and this year has been a difficult one, financially, for most people, so the free passes are Christmas City’s way of saying “Merry Christmas” to the community from the new owner and his family.

Admission to Christmas City is $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children two and under are admitted free.

Christmas City is open from 5:30 until 10:30 p.m. daily through New Year’s Eve. But Kendell, who is also the youth leader at First United Methodist Church in Hudson, Fla., said the theme park will not be just a seasonal park. He has plans for it to also be used as a retreat and a camp for kids.