Linvilla Orchards prides itself on being a family fun destination specifically for families with young children. As the holiday season approached, we were so saddened by the thought that this year, due to Covid-19, children would not enjoy the magic of sitting with Santa and sharing their Christmas wishes.
Our management group met to talk about how we could keep the children, families and our staff safe while at the same time maintain some of the normalcy of the Santa experience. As a former educator, I had experience with a learning tool called a phonics phone. Simply, it is two PVC elbows connected by a straight PVC which allows students to hold the device like a phone and listen to themselves while they practice phonics pronunciation. It occurred to me that perhaps this concept could be transformed and made in to an exciting, yet distanced, means of talking with Santa. We were interested in having Santa distanced rather than behind plexi or plastic. We all felt that even a clear visual barrier was still a barrier that none of us felt comfortable with – especially Santa. He was the most heartbroken of all of us that he couldn’t be there completely for the children. We decided to build a stage -raising Santa up above the children to allow us to maintain safety and still create a sense of closeness. Maintaining the magic was most important.
If you have ever visited Linvilla Orchards, you have experienced the amazing creativity of our Art Department. They are responsible for designing and building our Easter Bunny’s house in the woods, our Friendly Witch’s house, Pumpkinland, Christmasland, photo face boards and all the larger-than-life decorations that enhance the Linvilla experience. They think outside the box more than any other team I have known. We dropped the concept in their laps and almost immediately, a drawing was done.
As the project evolved, the concern was raised about whether our most soft-spoken friends would be heard by Santa. We enlisted another member of the Linvill family with a production background to create a subtle microphone system for the Noelziphone. Tucked inside, a tiny mic amplifies the sound just enough for Santa to hear but not so much as to seem artificial. At this point, functionality was covered, and we were ready to send it back to the Art department.
We knew that with social distancing and the time and care Santa gives each child, we would need to have the waiting space designed to entertain as well. The Art team created reindeer stalls and a poem lines the waiting path. Each of the finishing touches were made to Santa’s space and the surrounding area while the Noelziphone was completed. PVC pipe is at its foundation. It is covered in areas with dryer vent, flowerpots, fabric and paint. The Noelziphone is a beautifully typical example of the spirit of collaboration among our staff as well as our overwhelming commitment to our youngest customers.
Nothing was going to stop Santa at Linvilla!