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Mini Santa Land returns for 14th year of cheer

By Meredith Shamburger
Dec. 20, 2017 at 10:30 p.m.

Two million lights and numerous other decorations that make up Carmela's Mini Santa Land.

It takes Carmela Davis and a small army of people months each year to put up the 2 million lights and numerous other decorations that make up Carmela's Mini Santa Land.

Sometimes, Davis says, she wonders why she still hosts the holiday attraction. But then she watches people go through the drive-through scenes and sees how it gives them "a special joy."

"When you see that and the people tell you thank you and you truly know they mean it, that's what keeps you going," she said.

Carmela's Mini Santa Land opened for the season in early November and will remain open through Jan. 7 at U.S. 259 at FM 2751. The drive-through attraction boasts Christmas lights, Santa, dancing trees, Nativity scenes and more at no cost (donations are welcome on-site and at tinyurl.com/petskdq).

Originally started 13 years ago at Davis's Spring Hill home, the Mini Santa Land moved to its U.S. 259 location last year. Davis says the move was good for her neighbors, but also for the show, giving it more space to do a lot of different things, such as adding an area honoring people who have been affected by cancer and making the patriotic section larger. And this year Santa has been added to the mix.

"It's gone well," Davis said. "We still feel like there's a lot of people who don't know about it. I think our biggest thing is that we feel like because I always named it Carmela's Mini Santa Land because it was at my house, that the word 'mini' to them means several people think it's not got much, when we feel like we're equal if not better than Santaland in Lindale."

The expanded site and added attractions have drawn more crowds than in previous years, Davis said. Longer lines have been seen on Fridays and Saturdays, but Davis hopes people don't get discouraged by that; her crew makes sure to keep the lines advancing, she said.

"I use it in comparison if I'm at Six Flags in a long line that's an hourlong wait: As long as that line's moving, you don't really realize you're in line for an hour," she said. "So on Friday and Saturday nights, yes, the line can be long, but we keep it moving."

Carmela's Mini Santa Land is open from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. To enter, visitors are directed to go north on Judson Road until it dead ends into U.S. 259 and head back south to the entrance. That ensures a smooth flow of traffic and prevents line cutters, Davis said. And if people want to avoid long lines, Davis says Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are not as busy as weekends.

The whole thing takes months to set up, with Davis and her crew beginning in June of each year. They're also out on-site every day while it's open, helping at various stations and making sure the line keeps moving.

"There's days that I'm really wore out, and there's days I think 'Why? Why am I doing it?'" she said. "But all it takes is to be out there when an older couple grabs your hand and says, 'Wow, you brought Christmas back into our lives.' Or a couple that last weekend came through and they just lost their mother a week ago and they said they needed that. Or you have these kids that you know this might be the only thing they get as far as Christmas. They may get a small gift or something, but this is it."

She says sometimes it can get emotional, but it's always a good emotional moment.

"And I don't know who makes me the happiest: the kids that come through, just screaming and ooo-ing and awww-ing, or the adults," she said.

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