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.