For 11 nights each December, the holiday lights shimmer, children scamper and the holiday music puts families in the Christmas mood when Storybook Lane comes to life in Dilley, Oregon.
It's time when families stroll through a near-acre sized show that really shines in its 82nd year. But the truth is – the work that brings scores of storybook characters to life actually begins many weeks before the holiday season.
Two sisters, Holly and Chrissy Marshall, grew up with their “labor of love” and every-other-year family ritual, so their memories of Storybook Lane run deep.
“Our whole family comes out and starts putting up all of the characters right after Thanksgiving,” said Holly Marshall – (daughter of Sue Marshall who leads the charge to assemble Storybook Lane every other year.) “We bring out all of the set pieces and begin to assemble them along the trail. It means putting down fresh bark and gravel and also locating and planting 100 Christmas trees across the acre-sized property – the trees provide the background.”
Photos from Grant's Getaways: Storybook Lane
Photos from Grant's Getaways: Storybook Lane
Storybook Lane came to life in nearby Forest Grove back in 1935 and to this day, several pieces – like a Merry-Go-Round and a long elvish Toyland date to the earliest days of the holiday event.
Back then, the large holiday display of moving characters, lighting and music was owned and operated by Forest Grove lumberman, Bill McCready.
It was called “Fairy Land” and McCcready relied upon his employees to paint and assemble the annual show that was set up in his sprawling yard.
One of those employees was Marge O'Rear who remembers painting her first storybook scene in 1945. Through the decades, she's drawn countless nursery rhyme characters that come to life with paint and wood.
Marge and her late husband, Norris O'Rear, became the owners of the entire Storybook Lane sets and characters in 1979.
Today, there are more than 40 displays ---- the work to keep it all running smoothly never ends.
Her daughter, Sue Marshall, said that the “effort relies on all of our family and many of our close friends.”
Holly noted that keeping the sets, the characters and the motors that operate many of the displays in tip-top condition is an on-going job:
“We keep everything – and we work hard tweak it – twist it – make it work if there's a problem. We do a lot of re-cycling because it's too expensive to buy new motors.”
That's where Storybook Lane's “Chief Troubleshooter,” Dan Marshall, (brother to Holly and Chrissy Marshall) steps in.
“Everything out here gets old and needs to be greased, oiled or something and it's challenging. Some machinery runs flawlessly, and some works great in the shop, but then the weather hits it and it doesn't like to move outdoors. The work never ends.”
While the sets and moving characters may not always be perfectly machined, the whirring and the humming; the sounds of motors and belts are part of Storybook Lane's 82-year-old charm.
“On opening night, when we see all the kids laughing and smiling,” noted Holly. “They go crazy with all the lights and their favorite storybook scenes. Those are the moments when we know all of our work is worth it. It's awesome!”
Even more awesome is the fact that they do not charge a dime to visit: “We don't want to make it hard for families to find Christmas activities they can take their children to,” said Chrissy Marshall. “It's important to us that everyone have the chance to come and see something special like this."
You can see Storybook Lane each night through Christmas.
Drive south from Forest Grove on State Highway 47 for approximately three miles to Dilley. Watch for signs to “Storybook Lane” on the left side of the highway. It opens each day at 5:30 p.m. beginning December 15 and continues through Christmas.
If you would like to visit more of Oregon – consider a walk on the wild side with my new book: “Grant's Getaways: Oregon Adventures With the Kids.” You'll find activities to engage any kid, from archery to clamming on the coast to hunting for thundereggs to zip-lining through trees in an aerial adventure park. In addition, be sure to check out “Grant's Getaways Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon.” You will enjoy 48 uniquely Oregon adventures highlighting my fish and wildlife encounters. Scores of colorful photos by “Grant's Getaways” photographer, Jeff Kastner, show off some of our finest moments in the field. You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon adventures in: "Grant's Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures"