Candy. That is was Alice Chyou's favorite part about her first time visiting Lakewood’s Camp Christmas at Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park. Not Santa Claus ready to hear Christmas her wishes, not Hin Han the flaming metal owl sculpture and not the shimmering lights scattered amongst trees and decorating buildings.
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"To come and decorate in this living museum is kind of trippy," said Lonnie Hanzon, the creator of Camp Christmas. He’s commenting on how his outlines and schematics for what a physical Camp Christmas would look like fit the park perfectly, but also how no nails or screws were used because the park is filled with historic buildings — being part history park, part museum.
Four years old in total, Camp Christmas has only been brought into reality the last two years, previously living through his imagination and, more recently, shipped gift boxes, according to Hanzon. Now, through the 42 years that Lakewood has been hosting Christmas events of some kind, the city has collected some giant decorations that fit right in.
“It's like collecting Christmas decorations but in a really big way,” Hanzon joked.
Omar Chyou of Lakewood, Alice’s father, said it was their first time at the event, but they were enjoying it.
“Overall it’s kind of whimsical,” said Laura Chyou, Alice’s mother.
Besides candy, the area has caramel popcorn, three bars, a carefully decorated living room in one of the historical buildings and a pun-telling snowman. With much to explore, Hanzon said Camp Christmas had 66,000 visitors last year, and he’s expecting the same for this year.
Camp Christmas is open 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 17 to Dec. 24.
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