Christmas may be less than two weeks away, but kids who want to write to Santa can still get their letters in on time. That’s because a magical mailbox — the “North Pole Express” can be found right here in Philomath and when a letter is placed in it, children will be sure to hear back from jolly old Saint Nick through one of his helpers here in town.
“I put the mailbox out there and I got so many letters last year,” said Candy Garcia, who lives at 304 Adelaide Drive. “And I replied — handwriting every single one of them. … I was reading letters like crazy.”
Two letters were even fired off to Montana to children who had been in Philomath visiting their grandmother. Garcia’s older son has pitched in, dressing up like Santa and handing out candy canes.
Of course, even Santa has deadlines. The big day is coming up and children must get their letters in the mailbox by Monday, Dec. 20.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Garcia said she only had about 30 letters from the “North Pole Express” mailbox and hopes to see more arrive.
Garcia’s kindness has been returned through the help of locals, such as the woman who sent her two books of stamps to help pay for postage costs.
Santa’s special mailbox is just one item of interest to be found in the cheery, festive setup. In fact, Garcia is best known for the decorations. For the past 20 years, she’s been going the extra mile to brighten the neighborhood — first in a duplex where she lived and since 2008, the house on Adelaide Drive located right across the street from her childhood home.
“That’s when it really got bigger … it just kind of escalated,” Garcia said.
The lights took on a life of their own and folks began to know they could expect a major dose of cheer on her street.
“This last year when COVID hit and the fairgrounds (the Pastega Holiday Light Display) shut down, we would have lines in front of our house,” Garcia said.
The lights stay on until 10 p.m.
“Light Up Corvallis” — a Facebook group dedicated to spreading the word about the coolest lights — started up last year after the Pastega display was canceled. In a contest for the top display, Garcia took first place, which came with a $100 donation to the charity of her choice — June’s Kids Kloset.
“Each year, we would add to our display,” Garcia said. “We usually buy the stuff the year before on clearance.”
Garcia does not stick to any certain theme with the display with all types of decorations showing up in the yard and on her house. The characters range from what could be considered traditional standbys — Santa, the Grinch, Frosty and so on — to those from the big screen, like “Frozen,” “Star Wars” and “Minions.”
The lights have been a delight to many in Garcia’s home over the years — her own children, of course, along with foster kids that she has often hosted over the holidays.
“It’s like you’re placed in a home and when you look outside, there’s this magical land out there,” Garcia said. “And that’s where it all kind of started growing.”
Garcia said planning for the holiday lights begins in July with the actual setup taking about three days. The family has traditionally put up the lights on the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Philomath certainly has a good number of impressive Christmas displays and those going on tours have made the Garcia house a popular spot.
“Especially on the weekends and Christmas Eve and Christmas, yeah, it’s a line of cars just going right by,” Garcia said.
She especially loves to hear and see the children having fun. It’s the biggest reason she puts in the work every year.
“I remember when I was a kid, lights were my favorite thing about Christmas,” she said. “Watching all of the kids and families — I mean, we have families literally standing outside our house just walking back and forth for 20, 30 minutes with their kids.”
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