Yes, Fox Valley, there is a Santa Claus

I’m pretty sure I met the real Santa Claus last night and he did not disappoint.

As with most magical encounters, it happened randomly. I rounded a corner on an ordinary cul de sac and slammed so hard into the spirit of Christmas that my breath stopped for a second or two and my eyes honestly welled up.

Troy Campbell and his son in-law Robert Schmidt have built the North Pole into the side and front yard of Campbell’s house in Kaukauna. The elaborate display combines everything that is right and good about the Christmas season.

“I do it for the children,” Campbell said from behind seasonally white whiskers and a red velvet cap. “I wanted to build something for disabled and forgotten children and for senior citizens to enjoy.”

The two men scour the nation during the offseason, scooping up lost and forgotten toys, repairing, rebuilding and hand-sewing costumes, and working them into their astonishing display.

They breathed new life into antique dolls from an old Macy’s Christmas window display and built a pond of skating penguins. The Polar Express stopped in Campbell’s backyard and now everyone can hear the jingle bell ring.

Two bright red mailboxes accept “Letters to Santa” and a mistletoe station warns off elves and reindeer,”especially Rudolph.”

Asking only for donations to the food pantry, Campbell and Schmidt work year-round to design and maintain their increasingly elaborate North Pole.

Having just recovered from my own Christmas light disaster, I asked about their display. Three separate electrical boxes combine to provide electricity, fed by an underground matrix of wiring.

If you want to meet the real Santa Claus, and soak in a little genuine Christmas spirit, head on over to 830 Rusty Court in Kaukauna any night (5:30 to 10 p.m.) from now until January 1.

You’ll be glad you did.

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We pulled up to the house and saw this elaborate display. I had no idea this magical place existed so close to our home.
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Welcome to the North Pole
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We stepped into a world of Christmas in which all of our favorites Christmas books, movies and memories seemed to be represented.
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You can send letters to Santa if you want, but Santa himself is there live and in person.
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You’ll see skating penguins (admission cost 1 fish).
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And an elf school
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And a talking Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
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A cool Christmas choir
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And a sweet manger scene.
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The Polar Express stopped here.
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Magical reindeer stables
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Many of these displays use 100-year old dolls from the old Macy’s Christmas window displays.
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The Grinch gets arrested in the North Pole police station.
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The North Pole City Limits
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“You wanna take an elfie?” Santa asked. So, of course, we did.
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Then, we hopped in Santa’s sleigh, to our team gave a whistle and away we all flew like the down of a thistle.

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