By Valerie LK Martin
What do you do when your neighborhood no longer has the Christmas spirit because of the traffic backups and trash that accompany your spectacular, HTGV-highlighted Christmas display? You find 110 acres and create a whole Christmas ranch.
That is what Deb and Mike Fuchs did anyway.
After 15 years of sharing the joy of Christmas lights, the Fuchs found the perfect property to create a one-of-a-kind place: The Christmas Ranch.
Nine years ago, the display was a drive-thru experience. Today, visitors park their cars in a field and walk into a Christmas wonderland of lights, treats, music and, of course, Santa.
The ranch, located in Morrow, is open for the month of December, but the “elves” are busy getting ready six to seven months in advance. Shelves are stocked with ornaments and gifts. The Christmas Train is serviced and prepped. The food is ordered. Santa’s house is freshened. One million lights are checked and replaced. The 5-foot bonfire pit is stacked. All in preparation for 25,000-30,000 visitors ready to catch a taste of the North Pole and a glimpse of the big man himself.
Families have made the ranch an annual tradition. People come from all over the eastern United States and Canada. Buses are frequent from Michigan. Folks have even gotten engaged at the ranch – one couple on Santa’s lap.
The ranch also boasts six gift shops, a bakery, train and wagon rides, lights set to music, a professional photographer for pictures with Santa, and loads of cocoa and yummies to eat. The best part for the Fuchs is the look in little kids eyes.
When asked if they ever imagined their love of Christmas lights would lead to this, Deb said, “It is an unplanned mission.”
What she means is that the Fuchs make no money for all their work. Mike is a dentist. Deb manages the ranch and its leased farmland and the books for both endeavors. They do employ about 50 elves during the one-month season and one full-time elf, Linda, but net profits are given to three children’s charities: Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, the Neediest Kids of All, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Shriners also volunteer their time at the ranch. It’s an enormous undertaking.
“This is our opportunity to give back,” Deb said. It is their gift of lights.
THE CHRISTMAS RANCH
Address: 3205 South Waynesville Road, Morrow, OH 45152
Dates: Starts the day after Thanksgiving through Dec. 31. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Pricing: $20 per vehicle Friday, Saturday and Sunday; $15 per vehicle Monday through Thursday; $4 per person and a $200 minimum for charter buses; $4 per person and a $48 minimum for a 12-person van or small buses. Parking is free.
Activities: Train and wagon rides $4, children under 3 are free. Pictures with Santa are most evenings including Friday, Saturday and Sunday 5-9 p.m. Cost for pictures is $15 and includes decorative photo card. Santa is not available on Christmas Eve because he is delivering toys to all of the boys and girls that night.
In the news: The Christmas Ranch has been featured not only on HGTV and local media, but also “Good Morning America,” The New York Times, “Extreme Home Makeover,” Country Living magazine and Ohio magazine.
Helpful tip: Get there early. All this attention causes traffic backups for a couple of miles. Weekdays are best to beat the crowds.
From The Christmas Ranch kitchen:
LEMON CHIFFON CAKE
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup oil
7 large egg yolks at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup of egg whites
1/4 cup butter
1 pound confectionary sugar
Milk, to liking
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Sift flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together. Add oil, egg yolks, water, lemon extract and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Set aside.
Add cream of tartar to egg whites. Beat until stiff peaks form. Fold, do not beat, batter into egg whites. Pour batter into an ungreased, 10-inch, 2-piece tube pan. Do not use Pam.
Bake on center rack in oven 55 minutes. Then, turn temperature up to 350 F and bake 10 minutes. Immediately invert pan to cool for about one hour.
Take sharp knife and run around the sides of cake. Then, run a knife around the bottom of the tube pan.
In another medium bowl, mix butter and confectionary sugar. Add milk until smooth. Frost cake.