Christmas is back! Paul Smith’s light display returns to Clayton Ave.

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Christmas is officially back.

For the first time since Covid, Paul Smith, aka “Griswold,” will illuminate his much larger-than life interactive Christmas display on Clayton Avenue across from the Glens Falls High School football field.

“It’s been three years in the dark,” Mr. Smith told The Chronicle. “Two years for the pandemic and one year for my health reasons. I’m so happy to be back.”

Besides the signature sky-high tree of lights, push-button sound-light-and-movement Christmas scenes, retro Christmas village, narrated Nativity story, and thousands of color-changing lights — nearly all hand-made by Mr. Smith — he’s finally adding a new attraction that was promised five years ago.

It’s an animatronic Santa’s Workshop with life-sized Toymaker that was displayed briefly at the former Magic Forest, then held in storage for several decades.

It was manufactured in Germany in the 1950s, Mr. Smith said, and first brought to the U.S. by an amusement park in Rochester that closed, when Magic Forest owner Jack Gillette bought it at auction.

Mr. Gillette offered it to Mr. Smith when he sold Magic Forest.

“Sight unseen I said I’ll take it,” he says. “And there we are. It’s been one huge 24-7 project since.”

Motors and other parts that had long stopped working had to be entirely rebuilt, even remachined. “The German motors aren’t the same as here,” Mr. Smith said — adding to the challenge.

“A lot of local businesses supported, helped and donated for this,” he says.

The whole scene is housed in a former mobile home donated by Lamplighter Acres, refurbished in part with a donation from the Glens Falls Kiwanis Club.

Paul Smith, right, with friend Nick Willard,one of the many individuals and businesses that help with Mr. Smith’s annual Christmas display. Behind them is the converted mobile home where the new, refurbished antique German animatronic Santa’s Workshop will be displayed. The simple tree on the left, fashioned from old coffee cans, was one of Mr. Smith’s first hand-made attractions.

Safety railings for the raised viewing walkway were donated by AFSCO Fence Company. Artist Karen McQuinn and her students helped re-paint the dolls and toys, repaired or sewed new costumes.

“There’s still a lot to do,” Mr. Smith said, but he said it will be ready in time for the opening on Thanksgiving night. It continues through New Year’s.

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