CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — For decades, families in South Jersey have made it a tradition to visit the G Boys Garden & Christmas Center for their holiday display in Marlton. When the store closed in 2012, the beloved Animation Wonderland eventually found its new home at the McNaughton’s Garden Center in Cherry Hill.
Ralph Gaudio, 76, is the originator of the decades-old holiday tradition which first began in the 1960s.
In its third year back at its new location, Gaudio takes a trip down memory lane to explain how the collection of more than 500 animatronic pieces came to exist.
The holiday display takes approximately two-and-a-half months to construct. Each year, Gaudio makes sure to create a new display with a new theme, with this year’s display largely featuring Victorian figures.
For Gaudio, the holiday tradition warms his heart and gives him a sense of community long pas,t but that carries on just as strongly to this day. He remembers each visitor that tells of how the display reminds them of a late family member or how it played an integral role in their childhood memories.
“That’s what I enjoy. They always tell me something special about the years before when they were coming to see my animations,” he adds.
A parade on Black Friday will host cartoon characters, ponies, and the presence of Santa. In the past, Gaudio used to shut down a lane of Route 70 for the parade, which draws hundreds and sometimes thousands.
Visitors can expect to see Santa and, on the weekends, they can enjoy pony rides, face painters, game booths, and a funnel cake and a fried Oreo food truck.
The hours are Mondays through Wednesdays, noon to 5:30 p.m, Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 8:30 p.m, Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m, and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tickets are $4 per visitor or $14 for a family of four. They can be purchased at the store. Children ages four and under can attend the experience for free.
A partnership with McDonald’s allows visitors to bring a receipt to the Animation Wonderland to receive a free coloring book. If visitors take a receipt from the display to McDonald’s, they will receive a free apple pie according to Gaudio.
A second display is on view at McNaughton’s second location in Somers Point, New Jersey.