Homespun vs. high tech: Why Magical Forest is magical

Photo: Christopher DeVargas

The Details

Magical Forest
Through December 31; Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m.; $9.75 ($7.75 ages 3-13, free under 3)
Opportunity Village, 6300 W. Oakey Blvd.

A while back The Onion created a short mocumentary about video rentals in the pre-Netflix days. The “Blockbuster Video Living Museum” featured actors posing as customers and staff, reenacting video store-transaction experiences. Of course, we all laughed hysterically, both because it was funny and because, for most of us, driving to a Blockbuster dates back less than 10 years. Yet the not-so-long-ago quickly becomes ancient, if not suddenly retro, in this technological age.

And in moneyed Las Vegas, we’re so spoiled with state-of-the-art/invented-this-morning technology in our tourist corridors that anything remotely indicative of yesteryear has us flabbergasted. We either love the charm or ignore it. So when a longstanding, homespun community event returns annually and you choose to attend, keep in mind that you’re part of a soon-to-be historic tradition that will only increase in emotional value as technology drowns us with virtual, rather than tactile, experiences.

In this case, by homespun community event, we mean Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest, a volunteer-run charitable holiday festival in which two acres of forest are decked in tinsel, lights and ornaments. A Santa train runs through it. There’s hot chocolate, funnel cakes, caramel corn and gingerbread house displays. Strollers are wheeled through pathways, music is piped in, families play mini golf and children pile in and out of a fire truck.

Head to the vendors area where a 1925 Wurlitzer band organ plays American and holiday favorites—by then you’ll likely be asking yourself, “Am I in an art installation or on a 1980s movie set?” Because certainly, this can’t be real. Someone has gone a long way to authentically reproduce a non-corporate, small-town event. Yet they do it every year.

Here are some highlights …

Miniature tree lights So many lights wrap branches, thread displays and line fences that there’s almost a haze from the glow, much like a moonlit snowstorm. In regard to visuals, this is where the word “magical” seems most fitting.

Large-scale displays Whether it’s a castle dripping light icicles or a village of large dioramas that have Mrs. Claus baking cookies in her (presumably North Pole) kitchen or a polar bear playing guitar, there’s a county fair/old-school Disneyland feel to this place that you can’t easily find these days.

Of Slurpees and squeegees Local businesses and organizations sponsor and decorate trees according to their trade and products. Best use of Slurpee cups obviously goes to 7-Eleven, which decked its tree with the cups and used Zotz as ribbon. Peggy’s Cleaning Services garnished its tree with tinsel, squeegees and dusters. Blue Man Group provided an interactive Blue Man instrument, and Allegiant contributed airplane ornaments and suitcases. (Homespun here, even with corporate participants.) Foreclosed Upon Pets, Inc., used stuffed animals for its displays, reminding us that more animals need homes now.

Batting The props and staging are amazing here. Who knew quilt stuffing could so easy replicate snow?

The cause Nothing says community like this. It’s the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser and the Valley’s most-attended holiday attraction. All proceeds from the event benefit Opportunity Village, which provides jobs, training and other services to locals with intellectual disabilities.

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