By CHRISTOPHER SMITH
Candyland visitors can easily to get lost in the lights, music and extravagance of it all, but one thing most people overlook is the work put into building and operating this Christmas wonderland.
Volunteers from schools all over the county help staff the Candyland cottages and attractions that have drawn people from all over the region. Even the Lurleen B. Wallace Community College has had students, and particularly student athletes, volunteer to work with the event.
Some volunteers have separated themselves from the group and have been put onto the payroll for the city. Melanie Ray, the supervisor for these temporary workers, said, “I love working with these kids. Some of them have put so much dedication into volunteering that we couldn’t help but hire them for this year. They work hard and truly love what they are doing.”
The temporary workers are mostly students from different high schools. When asked about her experience working Candyland, Anabell Bryant, a junior from Andalusia High School, said, “I really do love Christmas. It is my favorite holiday, so when I get to light up a child’s face with Christmas cheer it makes me feel happy, since I am a child at heart.”
The city has approximately 24 temporary workers helping with the event, Ray said.
City crews have been working since October to set up and build the Candyland attractions, but their jobs are not over once the attractions are up. Instead,they work multiple 80-hour weeks to keep every maintenance issue under control. They wake up early to make sure the skating rink is ready, the slide is slick enough to slide down, and the train will be ready for rides.
While this is a very demanding job for the workers and volunteers alike, many of them still have the same answer when asked about the rewards of the job.
Wendell Dyess, who engineers the train, said, “It is really hard to tell the kids ‘no’ when they come running up to you with a huge smile on their face screaming about wanting to ride the train. No matter how many times I say, ‘This is the last ride,’ I always get suckered into one more.”
Christmas in Candyland and Springdale on Ice will be open every weekend until Dec. 30.