SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Santa Maria Elks Recreation is all set to open its popular "Christmas in the Country" holiday experience later this week on Friday, Dec. 1.
Created in 2020 during the pandemic, the drive-through event is held on the 107-acre Elks Event Center property, the home site of the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo.
"It's such a fun family event," said Johnna McGuire, Santa Maria Elks Recreation Media Director. "What's great about it is regardless of the weather, regardless of what happens, everybody can pile in the car with grandma and grandpa, and everybody else, and enjoy it. It's thousands and thousands and thousands of Christmas lights."
The exact number of lights is unknown, but Clark is correct when pointing out it well runs into the thousands.
"Everything we do here at Elks Rec has to be bigger and better every year," said Matt Rodriguez, Elks Event Center Operations Officer. "On that tree back there, there's about about a thousand lights going around the tree itself, and the star, there's probably another 500 lights on the star on top, so there's a lot of lights, a lot of electricity, a lot of generators, but it's all well worth it at the end."
Christmas in the Country features dozens of lighted displays that have been created individually by separate businesses, clubs, schools, organizations, families and other groups.
"It really is such a unique experience," said McGuire. "You're going to see different scenes and the magic is in the lights. To see this many Christmas displays in one area and to be able to do a drive-through, whether it's cold or it's maybe a little drizzly, and to be able to still enjoy something that the whole family can do together is very fun."
McGuire added that many popular attractions that have been featured in past years are returning once again this season, such as an appearance by Santa Claus and much more.
"We have a live nativity," said McGuire. "Cousin Eddie (the character from the popular Christmas Vacation movie) is back. He's the favorite and he'll be talking. We have Polar Express for all of our guests, so it's interactive and it's fun."
Similar to the four-day Elks Rodeo held in early June, all of the proceeds generated through the sale of tickets will benefit the community and help provide funding to different programs, activities and projects, especially for the youth in the Santa Maria Valley.
"It helps out Elks Rec," said Rodriguez. "We give back to the community. We have a lot of kids that come through. We have FFA that comes through high school, kids that come through and help out and we give back to their organizations."
Christmas in the Country is scheduled from Dec. 1 through Dec. 23 and will be held on Friday and Saturday nights.
Single-car entries cost $55, while tickets for the VIP Experience, which allow guests to ride through the event in a horse drawn wagon are $70.
Other rules established by Elks Recreation include a $5 processing fee for each ticket sold, no refunds or exchanges for different dates or times once tickets are purchased, vehicles over 9.5 feet tall, buses, limo buses, motorhomes are prohibited, and VIP guests must be able to transfer to wagon by climbing small steps.
For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.