If you’re looking for the heart of the holidays, it just might reside in Rosholt, Wisconsin.
Located about 17 miles east of Stevens Point, Rosholt is a town of roughly 500 to 600 people. But the little town knows how to bring holiday cheer to young and old alike.
Each year, the community members and various organizations in the Rosholt area come together to create a combination of indoor and outdoor holiday displays that can put a smile on the face of the biggest grinch. The indoor display is known as the Enchanted Forest, while the outdoor event is known as Christmas in the Pines.
Jean Lacke, a family and consumer sciences teacher at the Rosholt school, is the faculty advisor for the Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) group, which organizes the indoor displays of the Enchanted Forest. And there is no better ambassador for the event, which brings people from all over the state each year and at times from nine different states.
“Twenty years ago a non-profit organization began setting up the Enchanted Forest as a fund raiser,” Lacke said. After a few years, the non-profit wanted to turn over the event to someone else, so the event moved to the Centerpoint Mall in Stevens Point and Lacke volunteered her students at Rosholt.
“Since then, high school kids have been doing what a professional organization did in Stevens Point,” she said.
When the Centerpoint Mall in Stevens Point closed a few years ago, they had to find another venue for the display. That’s when they moved into their current location at the Rosholt Community Center.
“It’s such a beautiful old building,” Lacke said. “The history of the building is so interesting. The community used this building when the high school burned down around 1950. It has high ceilings and beautiful hardwood floors. It’s just so beautiful.”
The indoor display includes more than 100 decorated trees and scenes, and about 60 are done by the Rosholt FCCLA. The rest are put together by churches, businesses and various organizations from the area that put up displays inside the historic building.
The outdoor lighted displays are put up by community members who come forward and donate their time, decorations and energy.
“The point was to make this a community event,” Lacke said. “When we opened the doors for the first year in Rosholt, it was like we came home. This is where we were meant to be. We are in a beautiful facility that really lends itself perfectly to the event.
“The entrance to the park is done by Community First Bank. The Boy Scouts do a lot of decorating, too. Even the Pioneer Museum with the windmill at the top of the hill is decorated for the event.”
The Rosholt FCCLA includes more than 60 student members. They begin working on the displays as soon as the Halloween Pumpkin Walk is over at the end of October.
“The building also hosts the occasional wedding, so we have to wait until those events are done before we begin setting up the Enchanted Forest, but we’re usually working on it by the beginning of November,” Lacke said.
A Picture Perfect Setting
Inside the building you will find many family-friendly displays featuring such characters as Big Bird and Cookie Monster from Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants and Charlie Brown. You’ll even find Anna, Elsa and Olaf from Frozen, plus many other holiday favorites. The figures in the various displays are cut from Styrofoam, which makes them light but durable.
“This year we will have an antique sleigh display with steps so people can take photos,” Lacke added.
Black plastic or fabric has been draped behind many of the picturesque displays, making it a perfect spot to take a family photo. You might even get the perfect shot for your holiday cards — perhaps something with Santa?
“Muzzy Broadcasting is a major sponsor of our event,” Lacke said. “In Muzzy Broadcasting’s area of the Enchanted Forest, Santa sits in a chair near a tree and fireplace every Saturday night from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, so make sure to stop by for a visit!”
One of Lacke’s favorite displays is the cave of the Abominable Snow Monster from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There is also a gingerbread village with animated figures such as elves and Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Some of the organizations who put up trees try to tie them to the products and services they provide, while others make their trees more traditional or whimsical. For example, a local farming group in the area has created a Gourd-geous Tree in the past.
One of the things Lacke tries to stress to the students who participate is the idea of community service.
“As you grow up, you become part of your community,” Lacke explained. “And as a member of a community, you should do things for that community long before you ever receive anything in return.”
There is no admission fee for the indoor or outdoor displays, but donations are always welcome. The displays open on the day after Thanksgiving and are open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Christmas from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
“We open in the evenings because it really needs to be dark to get the full effect of these beautiful displays,” Lacke said.
Communities Come Together
As you can imagine, a display of this magnitude does not happen without the help of many people. Lacke is quick to point out the wonderful Norma Anderson, a local resident, who is the volunteer coordinator. Anderson sets up the volunteer schedule and keeps things running smoothly. Volunteers usually work shifts of about 1-1/2 hours.
“The interior of the building is completely accessible to people with limited mobility,” Lacke added. “The aisles are wide, and there’s a smooth floor. There is ample parking, but if it’s very snowy, the parking lot might get a little slippery. However, feel free to pull right up to the door to unload your passengers before parking.”
Joe Kertzman, a resident of the Rosholt area who is active in his son’s boy scout troop, is a big fan of the Enchanted Forest and Christmas in the Pines displays.
“Having grown up in the Milwaukee area, I always enjoyed the Christmas lights and ‘Candy Cane Lane,’ where one particular neighborhood decorates to the extreme and people drive through the streets admiring their work,” Kertzman said. “There’s a little piece of that in Rosholt, where local organizations like the Blizzard Busters Snowmobile Club, 4H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Rosholt Area Community Association decorate buildings and Christmas trees on the fairgrounds where the Rosholt Fair is held.”
Kertzman also added that there are many participants from other local communities in Portage County and the surrounding areas, which makes a great event even more special.
“It’s truly an uplifting experience to walk among the trees and see the creativity and pride on display. It’s a fantastic free event that shows how a small town can pull together and create a nice space for people to come and enjoy,” Kertzman added.
Visit the Enchanted Forest
Located in the Youth Exhibition building in the Rosholt Fair Park, the Christmas in the Pines and Enchanted Forest Display includes roughly 100 tree displays and plenty of outdoor decorations, too. Indoor hours 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, while the outdoor displays are lit until 10:00 pm. The Rosholt Fair Park is located at 186 Forest Street West in Rosholt.