Dressed in their red and white Christmas dresses, Alexis Brewood, 3, and her sister, Fancy, 15 months, ran through The Christmas Village in Muskogee.
Their mother, Amanda Brewood, was enjoying a bread bowl filled with hot potato soup in the Royal Garden Cafe just through the doorway. On cold evenings, there is a fire in the fireplace. The family also could have a sandwich, cookie, hot chocolate and more.
It’s all part of the holiday package at The Castle Christmas from 6 to 10 p.m. today through New Year’s Eve at The Castle of Muskogee, 3400 W. Fern Mountain Road.
Steward of The Castle, Jeff Hiller, often greets guests like the Brewood family, which includes Amanda’s husband, Doug, and son Bently, 2 1/2 months. The family has come from Siloam Springs, Ark., every year since The Castle Christmas opened eight years ago. They started coming to Muskogee for the Garden of Lights in Honor Heights Park about 10 years ago.
"We love it,” Amanda said.
Doug said the girls had plenty of energy to run around The Castle because they slept on their two-hour ride.
“We start planning our trip right after Halloween,” said Doug, who is the manager of Walmart in Jane, Mo. “We’ve been to Tulsa and Bentonville. Nowhere is as fun as here.”
Wearing his red Santa hat, Hiller posed for a photo with Amanda and the girls in front of a Christmas tree. They had just driven through the more than 2,000 inflatables in The Christmas Kingdom. Alexis’ favorite was Minnie Mouse on top of a present, she said.
New inflatables are added every year, Hiller said. The Christmas event, which includes a hayride, petting zoo, gift shop, wine tasting and stories by Father Christmas, grows each year. Hiller estimates more than 100,000 people come through from opening day on Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve.
“The weather has been incredible,” Hiller said. “We’ve expanded with more shops like the ones where you make your own candles and one that sells masks.”
Another first-time vendor is Todd Britton of Oregon. He carves and makes miniature wooden catapults of pine, poplar and other hard woods. In his corner of The Castle, children can try to hit the knight behind him with small red or white balls.
"Kids have a great time,” Britton said. “They laugh, hit their friends.”
He said he spends time making the catapults because he loves working with wood.
“I get joy and excitement out of it and watching the kids,” he said.
Hiller said a returning activity that is always popular with the kids is “wax hands.” Trevor Mummert, 7, of Braggs described his blue wax figure in the shape of his fist as “stiff.” His sister, Skylar Lott, 10, did it last year and made a peace sign, she said. Their parents, John and Rhonda Mummert, said they bring them every year. They family enjoys looking at the inflatables, too.
For those who haven’t seen the Christmas inflatable display, it’s hard to envision. You can take the tour in a car, on a hayride or in a horse-drawn carriage The characters range from 4 to 20 feet tall. Santa is on rooftops, in airplanes, riding motorcycles, paddling a boat, driving a race car and hanging with his friends — elves, snowmen, reindeer, penguins, polar bears, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Scooby-Doo, The Grinch, Elmo, The Simpsons, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too.
Gary Brown is site crew leader for a crew of five that sets up the city of inflatables.
“We all work together,” Brown said. “We start right after Halloween.”
Car riders get a different view than folks who go on the hayride. There are a few surprises like the Easter bunny hiding in the woods and Spider-Man hanging from a ledge.
“We try to change it up every year,” he said.
That keeps families like the Brewoods coming back year after year.
If you go
WHAT: The Castle Christmas.
WHEN: 6 to 10 p.m. today through New Year’s Eve.
WHERE: The Castle of Muskogee, 3400 W. Fern Mountain Road.
COST: Admission is free with donations welcome.
ACTIVITIES: Inflatables, petting zoo, gift shop, cafe, artisans offering handmade gifts and a visit with Father Christmas. Horse-drawn carriage rides are $10, adult; $5, child; or family of four for $25. Tractor-drawn hayrides are $5 per person and free for children under 13.