Wednesday, 04 December 2013 13:20

The Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company will once again host its annual Christmas train garden through January 5.file  photo/Roland Dorsey

Train gardens, Holiday Hoopla highlight events

by John G. Bailey

Christmas and tradition go together. This year, three Dundalk institutions continue local traditions with annual holiday events.
    The Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society Museum and the Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company train gardens are back.  Both are the products of years of practice and innovation unique to each institution.
    But the dedicated designers of both exhibits share a common goal: to produce a different visual and auditory experience each year for returning visitors.
    Michael Andy oversees  the design and creation of the Historical Society Museum train garden.
    “Fourteen years of experience brings us a little closer to perfection,” he said of the train garden’s crew.
    Along with SpongeBob SquarePants and other annual favorites, “there will be a number of improvements this year,” Andy said. “Upon entering, returning visitiors will notice some significant changes.”
    Not wanting to spoil the suprise, Andy gave few specifics. The layout will be different and — at 350 square feet — roughly the same size as last year’s exhibit. The physical dimensions of the museum preclude anything larger.
    Holiday realism characterized the 2012 display, with car accidents and houses ablaze. Andy was mum on this year’s theme.  
    The museum’s train garden is open for public viewing seven days a week from noon to 8 p.m., except Christmas Eve, when the trains stop running at 5 p.m., and Christmas Day when the museum is closed. Admission is free. Donations will be accepted.
    The Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Department train garden continues a tradition begun by Dundalk Fire Station 6, which ended its annual exhibit in 1978. Much of the track, trains, scenery and figures from the Station 6 holiday train exhibit were used in the first WAVFC train garden in 1981.
    What started as a 10-by-32-foot train garden has grown to this year’s 20-by-44-foot exhibit. “Its one of the largest temporary displays [train gardens] in the country,” according to the WAVFD web site, www. Construction of the exhibit began months in advance of the opening day on Nov. 30.
    In 1981, the garden received 16,000 visitors. Last year, long lines were common on weekends.
    The 33rd annual Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company Christmas train garden is open weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. and weekends from noon to 9 p.m.  until Sunday, Jan. 5.  A $1 donation is requested from adults. Children enter free.
    The fifth annual Holiday Hoopla, sponsored by the Dundalk Renaissance Corp. and other community organizations, is a tradition in the making. This year’s family-friendly  celebration of the season takes place on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Dundalk Village Shopping Center.
    Festivities begin with a Christmas parade at 4 p.m., featuring the Turkey Hill Cow passing out ice cream, Sneaks the Cat (the Baltimore County Public Library mascot) and other parade favorites.
    After the parade, Santa will hold consultations with children at Heritage Park while the General John Stricker Middle School Steel Drum Band provides live entertainment.
    The Holiday Cookie Tour and the Holiday Street Fair get underway at 5 p.m. During the tour, children get free cookies at local businesses. The fair includes easy crafts for children, Bubbles the Clown, a caricaturist for cartoon portraits and more.
    The Pop Up Shop, at 79 Shipping Place, offers local art and crafts for sale from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the day of the event. Artisans will be on hand to discuss their work.
    All Holiday Hoopla events are free. For more information on Holiday Hoopla, visit