Christmas on the Farm
In November, Kersey Valley kicks into high holiday gearBy Bridgette A. Lacy | Photos by Des Keller
‘“Lights, Santa, action!’ — that’s our tagline,” explains Tony Wohlgemuth, who co-owns Kersey Valley Christmas with his wife, Donna. Each November, the 80-acre tobacco farm opens as a holiday wonderland for children and adults of all ages in Archdale.
As you walk through the outdoor grounds, you hear Christmas classics including Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby,” Thurl Ravenscroft’s “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and The Ronette’s “Sleigh Ride.” The fragrant aroma of fresh caramel kettle corn and apple cider donuts sweetens the air.
“It’s family oriented, with lots of different things to do around every corner,” says Greensboro resident Tiasha Hairston who came with her family, including her husband and 5-year-old daughter.
Donna says the experience is about memories and family fun.
“We created a place where people can go and buy mementoes,” she says. “We sell ornaments, and things people can treasure for their rest of their lives.”
A spooky start
Tony was born in High Point, although his family was from Zurich, Switzerland.
For years, his family’s farm has been known for Spookywoods, deemed by the Travel Channel as one of the top five haunted attractions in America. The “haunted” spot has been a seasonal hit for 38 years, and features movie-quality sets and soul-shaking special environmental effects. But the farm’s roots were anything but spooky.
“My father immigrated here to work for a furniture company. They bought the farm in 1979, and it was used to plant Christmas trees.”
After his father moved back to Switzerland, a close call one summer led young Tony and his school friends to come up with a more profitable idea.
“The property had several unused tobacco barns, a farmhouse and the main residence,” he explains. “The farmhouse was remodeled in 1982, and my mother taught European knitting classes there as part of an off-campus program for the local community college. My friends and I used to pull power from the farmhouse via a drop cord to one of the tobacco barns behind it. We hung a chandelier and used it as our main light.”
The farm was a popular place to spend summers hanging out, and Tony and his friends would camp in the barns.
“One summer night, just past midnight as we were about to fall asleep, the chandelier fell and stopped a few inches from smashing us in the face,” Tony says. “We were lying in sleeping bags directly underneath. The end of the drop cord, caught on the windowsill, was the only thing that kept that heavy iron fixture from hitting us. It scared us half to death and spawned a dare between us to see who would enter the old house to restore the power. I took the dare, and when I came back, we kept challenging each other to see whose dare could be the scariest.”
The idea for Spookywoods was formed and has been growing ever since.
Christmas in the air
Kersey Valley Christmas first came into being in 2008, with a focus on selling real Christmas trees. In 2021 — once the world began getting back to normal after the pandemic — Tony and Donna launched the bigger “reboot” of the Christmas festivities.
The idea was a hit, and now, after Halloween, Kersey Valley shifts into Christmas mode. It employs 300-plus part-time employees and 10 to 12 fulltime employees year-round.
“There was a need for Christmas,” Donna says. “We wanted to create a different experience than the mall. Here, we get immersed in the lights and sounds, [and holiday treats like] roasted marshmallows at the Roasty Toasty Village.”
Christmas activities abound. In addition to holiday concessions and a walk-through light display, there are giant jumping pillows, a train ride around the various displays, massive wagon rides with a John Deere tractor and a cow train ride pulled by four-wheeler. Meanwhile, Santa and the Grinch walk around the farm and are ready to take a picture with anybody who wants a photo with them for a price.
Attractions are designed for parents and children to participate together.
“You can follow your kids down the mega slide…We have train rides for parents and kids. The seats on the train face each other by design, so there’s an opportunity to talk to each other while you see the light show,” Tony says. “We present family bonding experiences that you are never going to forget.”
About the AuthorBridgette A. Lacy is a freelance writer and the author of “Sunday Dinner: A Savor the South cookbook” by UNC Press of Chapel Hill. Reach her at email@example.com.
North Carolina Christmas