December 13, 2007

Former Resident Entertaining Guests at Wanda’s Winter Wonderland

Holiday travelers in northeast Missouri have made an interesting discovery. Mrs. Claus calls this region home.

Guests at the Wanda Hicks home five miles north of Brashear often make the trip to the rural setting to view the homeowners renowned Christmas decorations often referred to as Wanda’s Winter Wonderland. What these merry seekers are finding out is that Mrs. Claus has taken up residence among the thousands of twinkling colored lights.

Visitors have been traveling to the site for more than a decade to view Wanda’s Christmas lights. What started with some 5,000 lights and a few plywood cutouts of Santa and Mrs. Claus and their elves more than quadrupled in size over the years.

At its height, the display grew to a momentous 60,000 lights with 40 inflatable decorations, plenty of plywood cutouts all scattered throughout the display. At the center stands a 14 foot tall by 18 foot wide double star mounted atop a 30 foot pole.

Now in her 13th or 14th year, the former Scotland County resident admits that her display has shrunk in size.

“There aren’t 60,000 lights this year, more like 10,000 or 20,000,” said Wanda. “This year I have 15 inflatables instead of almost 40 like last year.”

Despite the downsizing, the holiday decorating still had to start back in October. In past years Wanda had enlisted the help of her two friends as well as her 84-year-old mother. With a smaller display in 2007, the work has been done predominantly by Wanda along with some help from her daughter.

While the show has been downsized slightly, a main attraction has been added.

Mrs. Claus and her Elves reportedly have taken up residency in the new Christmas shed that Wanda added to the show this year. It must just be a weekend getaway for the holiday personalities, as Mrs. Claus and the elves are only being spotted in the show over the weekends, starting on Thursday.

The Christmas characters hand out candy canes and Wanda’s homemade cookies to spectators there to view the decorations. It isn’t unusual for her to give out as many as 30 dozen cookies to guests on a busy weekend.

Wanda currently is taking classes in Sedalia, limiting her time spent on the holiday events to Thursday through Sunday. She often works in the Christmas shed, or spends time their playing cards with friends awaiting the arrival of guests.

Travelers from Scotland County should go west on Highway 11, west of Baring. Then on Route J north of Hurdland, go left (south) to the first gravel road to the right. Then travel to a T-road and go left and travel just past the cement bridge where you go left again.

Wanda, who grew up between Memphis and Rutledge, traces much of her love for the holidays back to her parents, Owen and Zenita Trueblood.

She recounts a family tradition of traveling with her parents to view a decorated home near Granger.

“I remember what that did for me, so I wanted to do that for other kids,” Wanda said.

And for Wanda, that is what Christmas is all about, the children.

“Nothing is too extreme to make the holidays just a little brighter for them,” she said.

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