In his sixth year offering a Christmas tableau for the ages, Candy Cane Wonderland proprietor Michael Adams is experiencing his best turnout yet.
Since 2007, Adams has opened his property in McColl, S.C. to the public for a drive-through explosion of Christmas spirit, with lights and decorations covering nearly every inch of Adams’ two-acre yard. “We come out to see the lights - we love everything about it,” said Lil Tucker of McColl. “Michael does a great job.”
Though he originally hoped to have 2,000 people in a season, Adams estimates that 60,000 people came through his exhibit last year. “It’s been tremendous the people that come,” Adams said. “Every year, then they tell people and new people come. It’s just word of mouth, but it just keeps getting bigger every year.”
The exhibit is free, though donations are accepted to cover the costs of offering the show. Candy Cane Wonderland was designed to help its visitors forget the more commercial elements of the holiday, and Adams hopes that it has the same effect on children that he experienced at a similar attraction held in Hartsville, S.C. in his youth.
“It takes the commercialism away and brings you back to the true spirit of Christimas,” Adams said. “When I was little we used to go ride and look at the Christmas lights, and that’s one of the things I remember.”
Last month, Adams initiated a food drive, asking his visitors to bring canned goods to distribute to local families. At the drive’s conclusion, he was able to donate boxes of food to 13 families and a full Thanksgiving dinner to another.
Adams intends for Candy Cane Wonderland to serve as a catalyst for good works in the community.
“I think it’s beautiful, and everything he does, taking up the food and donating it is wonderful,” said Laurinburg resident Tammy Carter. “Last year I called him because I had a Christmas tree that wouldn’t work. A couple of days later I came down and he said ‘Tammy I fixed your tree’ - there was a lady who didn’t have a tree and she had some small kids, and he took her my tree. It melted my heart when he told me that.”
Many of the decorations, ranging from Nativity themes to Santa Claus and snowmen, are donated by local businesses and individuals who support Candy Cane Wonderland. Adams has also found components of his masterpiece on ebay.
“My favorite is probably Disney - the kids seem to like the Disney section, they love the m&ms and Winnie-the-Pooh and Mickey Mouse, they just love all that,” he said. “I like the Santa’s workshop with the talking Santa Claus too. I like watching the kids. That’s the biggest thing, I just enjoy watching the people.”
Music plays as drivers tour the show, with selections including classic hymns and country music variations of Christmas songs. Every Christmas compilation Adams comes across finds its way onto the Candy Cane Wonderland playlist.
Santa Claus will stop by Candy Cane Wonderland every weekend until Christmas, present from 6-10 p.m. on Saturday as well as Dec. 14-16 and Dec. 21-23. The spectacle holds a particular delight for young children, like Carter’s five-year-old son Harrison, who commits the arrangement of decorations to memory each year.
“We enjoy it every year,” said Carter. “Michael can move one thing in this yard and he knows it.”
Candy Cane Wonderland opened the first week in November, and will remain open every evening from 6-10 p.m. through Dec. 31. He estimates that 23,000 people drove through in November.
“We get a lot of young couples, you can tell they’re dating, because it’s something cool to do, but it’s a lot of families with kids,” said Adams. “A lot of times you’ll have an older parent with their children. Last year we had an older lady come through and said that she knew why she’d lived 90 years, so she could see this.”
Candy Cane Wonderland is located at 2107 Family Farm Road in McColl. From Laurinburg, take Highway 401 South toward Bennettsville and turn right at Poole’s Body Shop on Academy Road. After crossing into South Carolina, turn right at the stoplight onto Highway 381, and then take the second paved road, Spice Road, which forks to the left. Turn right at the stop sign at Adamsville Road, and then take the first paved left onto Family Farm Road. The display is approximately one and one half miles on the right.