LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – If you love all things Christmas, you need to make sure your holiday plans include a visit to Camp Christmas at Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park. The “over-the-top outdoor extravaganza” takes place through Jan. 2.
Last year, Camp Christmas had to go all virtual but Camp Director Lonnie Hanzon wasted no time in getting ready for an in-person experience this year.
Work started as soon as last year’s camp closed but Hanzon said it took until about May or June to work out the deal between Lakewood, Hanzon Studios and The Denver Center for Performing Arts to move into the park.
“A six acre living museum with 15 historic buildings, six of which you can go through,” is the setting for the camp explained Hanzon.
Hanzon started by using all the materials that previously made up Camp Christmas at the Stanley Marketplace in 2019. “We added a few thousand packages, a mile of garland, a few 100,000 lights and more stuff.”
But he didn’t leave the virtual world entirely behind when he moved to the Lakewood park. “There’s a lot of bits from the virtual world that we’re carrying over into the real world like Sweetsville studio and Sweetsville Dinner.”
While you can experience the entire camp outdoors, you can also go into a number of the cabins, as you as you are wearing a mask.
“We’re standing in Gift-Arama which is all gift-giving. It kind of proves the point, you can’t judge a book by its cover buy you can presents by its gift wrapping.”
You’ll also find Beauty Camp and the Pink Room which had room to expand in its new digs.
“The light show is now in the barnyard. We’re doing a gingerbread display in Sweetsville Studio. There’s a carousel everybody can ride for free. So there’s a lot of different new activities,” Hanzon explained.
He said the extra room has been wonderful. “It’s safe for people. Santa is meeting with people on weekends but he’s got his campsite so he’s outside and distanced from people so kids can see Santa. It’s really turned out to be a wonderful place to be.”
And it’s a chance to learn. “In the Welcome Center, three’s the Camp History Museum that sort of starts with Stonehenge and gives you a bit of history of this thing we now call Christmas.”
But for Hanzon, the real experience of Camp Christmas is make sure visitors really get into the spirit.
“We’re trying to create a space at camp for people to come, let go of their stresses of holiday season or acknowledge them. We do have an emotional baggage check right at the beginning. My hope is that people can remember and rekindkle the spirit and that they find it somewhere here at camp.”