Three years ago, we went to a local conservation area around Christmas time and had a truly lovely evening. We stopped in to visit with the birds of prey and to play in the hay barn, went on a breathtaking horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow covered forest, decorated Christmas cookies by a fire, the kids made beautiful punched tin tree ornaments, and then went in for a private visit with Santa and Mrs. Clause. It was magical, believable, and fun.
Last year, we tried to recreate the same experience.....somewhat less magical.
We decided to give it one more try this year, in spite of the ridiculously inflated price. Here was the outcome..... the nature centre, which was wonderful to explore before, had been 'transformed' into a rather tacky 'Elf Training Centre'. The sleigh ride was packed full and had none of the intimacy that was so wonderful the first year. Punched tin ornaments had been replaced by plastic beads and pipe cleaners, and Mrs. Clause was not only in her 40s, but had beautiful auburn hair sticking out from under her wig. Santa's beard was so artificial that William (6 years old!) commented on it from across the room. Now to be fair, part of my frustration surely came from the fact that it was pouring down rain - not quite my vision of a white Christmas. But really, we were all extremely disappointed.
I guess it goes to show that if there is money to be made, people (and organizations) often lose sight of the initial impulse. This year, there was so much demand for this trip that the waiting list started to form in September (we had to register in August!!). What saddens me the most, is that there is the potential for this 'event' to be really great, and still earn a lot of money for the conservation area. Instead, it was a disaster. Certainly not something that we will do again. At least Charlie enjoyed the cookies!