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Albany Christmas Storybook Land is on and it's 45 years old

Keeping the holiday spirit alive during the pandemic is a challenge that Albany’s Christmas Storybook Land is answering with a free drive-thru event marking its 45th season.

Donations of nonperishable commercially packaged food and money are being accepted on behalf of Fish of Albany.

Christmas Storybook Land is driven by volunteers such as Carol Hahn, who is in charge of power for the event, overseeing electrical distribution to the various displays. When she was a little girl, her mother volunteered as well. Hahn recalled a photo of her year-old self in front of the Sesame Street display, which she now sponsors.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I was out here with my mom volunteering,” Hahn said. “I want to help make this a community event to last forever.”

Kathy Ballweber's Victorian Village is one of the many Christmas Storybook Land displays. The event runs from Dec. 3 to Dec. 17 at the Linn County Expo Center.

Hahn, who has volunteered for more than a decade, stepped up to help with the power and ended up — if you excuse the pun — in charge of it. With a diagram in hand, she planned out the logistics that would assure everyone has safe and consistent access to electricity.

There was some adjusting for the drive-thru format, but Hahn said it came together faster and easier than expected.

Forty-five years is an impressive run for any event. Carol Wood, president of the Christmas Storybook Land board of directors, chalked up the longevity in part to generations of community dedication to the food drive and fundraiser benefiting Fish of Albany. Wood said the yearly average is around 30,000 food items donated by around 35,000 visitors.

“A lot of kids are in tune with Fish and bring in food,” Wood said. “Their parents came as kids and they bring their kids, so everybody knows to donate to Fish — this is a big fundraiser also for us to get the community involved.”

Storybook Land partnered with the Linn County Expo Center on an indoor drive-thru experience for visitor safety, with 40,000 square feet of floor space to accommodate a 25-foot-wide U-shaped path through the wonderland. A full season of open dates is set for Friday, Dec. 3 to Friday, Dec. 17.

There will be more than 100 scenes to see, complete with Christmas music and a view of Santa and Mrs. Claus, plus a free candy cane for kids. And Star Wars Oregon characters will be there from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12.

Weyerhaeuser in Lebanon donates more than 1,300 fir trees every year to create an indoor forest. The trees come from young forests that need thinning to promote growth. After the event the trees are converted to mulch.

Seniors, veterans and those with special needs will be honored with a tour day on Monday, Dec. 6. Schedule your group by writing to christmasstorybookland@gmail.com. Children from preschool through third grade are invited to daytime tours Tuesday, Dec. 7 to Friday, Dec. 10. Schedule at csblschooltours@live.com.

Christmas Storybook Land, a nonprofit organization, was started in 1976 by three Albany families: the Albrights, the Dahlingers and the Houdeks.

Schedule of events

Monday-Thursday 6:30-8 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 3 6:30-8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 10 2-8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 17 2-8 p.m.

Cody Mann covers the cities of Albany and Lebanon. He can be contacted at 541-812-6113 or Cody.Mann@lee.net.

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