This year’s Wonderland on Roseville in Fairfield could be the last
FAIRFIELD — The glow from 226 Roseville Terrace is visible for blocks.
Up to an estimated 500,000 lights, “Wonderland on Roseville” is a feast for the senses, with computer-sychronized lights, an army of nutcrackers, a train that traverses the back yard, snowmen and angels galore, mangers, a chapel, a tree and, of course, Santa.
Now in its 20th year in its current location, homeowner Gene Halliwell admits this really is a Christmas tradition that goes back some 65 years, when he and his dad worked together on handmade decorations.
Then, the medium was plywood and paint.
“We started with nothing,” Halliwell said.
Since then, it has kind of snowballed.
“We work on Christmas 12 months a year,” admits Halliwell, who with his wife Mary, a daughter, adopted son and others spend off-months repairing, modernizing and replacing pieces stored in “Santa’s Workshop.”
“Sometimes things stop working or wear out,” Halliwell said. “We are always prefecting, adding, depending on what we see. If our daughter sees something, she buys it. If we find something, or want to make something different, we do it.”
Halliwell estimates there are at least a dozen new pieces for 2019.
This year’s display, which fills every inch of the property, includes a rebuilt train platform and a couple of new train tunnels. There are at least 150 animated displays. And along with the new, there is the historic, including a tribute to Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower and U.S. flags.
Wonderland on Roseville has also adopted a social media presence, with a facebook page.
Those who stop and visit are encouraged to sign the guest book and also invited to make a donation to the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Mass. A donation box sits in the welcome booth. Halliwell, his son-in-law and adopted son are all Shriners.
“I’m the guy you see riding around in the little red cars during parades,” Halliwell said.
Halliwell is hard-pressed to say what part of the display is his favorite.
“I can’t pick anything in particular,” he said “It would have to be 226 Roseville Terrace — the whole thing. If you push me, I would have to say either it would be the church or one of the nativity scenes — but it’s really everything together.”
Everything together almost led to the end of the display a couple of years ago when neighbors complained about the traffic and the thousands of visitors the month-long holiday display generates.
A compromise was reached when Roseville Terrace, off Black Rock Turnpike, was made one-way from 5 to 9 p.m. on weekdays and til 10 p.m. on weekends for the month of December.
Recent health issues, meanwhile, has Halliwell wondering once more if this will be the last year for tradition and the display which went up on Thanksgiving and will be lit, weather permitting, each evening until Dec. 30.
“This could be the last year,” Halliwell said.