lang="en-US"> My Day Pass to Happyland

My Day Pass to Happyland

Today, I went to Happyland.

What is Happyland, you ask?  I’d venture to say that it’s not too far of a stretch to compare Happyland to The North Pole.  At both, you’ll instantly be transported to the whimsy of your childhood at Christmastime.  At both, you’ll be blinded by dazzling lights; so bright that the Russians can no doubt see them beaming from the space station.  At both, you get a glance at something more rare than a unicorn:  For the North Pole it’s the Great Bumble of the North, otherwise known as the Abominable Snow Monster.  At Happyland, it’s a 15 foot tall, 20 foot long Tyrannosaurus Rex made of steel pipes and a windshield wiper motor who is snacking on a candy cane while breathing smoke.

And at both, you know that only a jolly old elf full of Christmas cheer could pull off such an elaborate treat purely for the joy in which it brings to others.

If you are as lucky as I was, you might even get to meet the bearded man himself.  I got a rare, all access daytime tour of Happyland with Bobby Moore.  Bobby has a twinkle in his eyes and a set of rosy-red cheeks.  He’s got a workshop where he tinkers with cars and toys and reindeer.  And I bet his wife, Jan, even keeps him stocked with cookies and hot cocoa.  But that’s not what gives me the urge to compare him to Santa.  It is the way in which he exudes Christmas spirit in his every breath.  Ask him about his plastic toy soldiers or his nylon Santa in a rocket ship or his 60 year old wooden and paper mache carolers and his spirit lights up as brightly as his yard in the month of December.

Happyland is celebrating its 19th (and final) season of making Raleigh a little more Jolly during the Christmas season.  Located at 5504 Huntingwood Drive off Penny Road, Bobby has certainly done his part in illuminating this side of town.  One might think he got his love of Christmas decorations naturally:  His grandfather once helped decorate the streets for the Raleigh Christmas parade and designed and built most of the floats for it as well.  Now the parade that Bobby watches is the one that happens nightly throughout the month of December as cars filled with Christmas revelers slowly march in front of his home.

Downtown Raleigh on a year in which Moore’s grandfather decorated the streets during the holiday season

Why did Happyland grow into what it is today?  Bobby has always had a few select pieces out during the holidays, but when he had a nephew with special needs who was always asking for “more lights, more lights”, his more is more outlook took shape.  Today his yard is blanketed with antique figurines, a life-sized UFO (one can only assume the proper size of a UFO), and countless cheerful characters that only an out-of-the-box thinker could dream up and bring to life.  Finding his cheerful swag at yard sales, on ebay and post-holiday sales, the most notable gotcha was the carolers and manger scene that he used to drive by and revel at as a young boy.  In fact, my mom remembers driving by the same house every year, owned by The Cross Family, who had a yard-full of Christmas cheer much like Happyland from the 1950s through the 1980s.

When I met Bobby, he was being assisted by one of his elves: His 11 year old grandson, R.L.  And he is fortunate enough to have an extremely talented artist for a wife who helps him restore decades-old pieces to their original glory.  But for the most part, Bobby does all the work himself.  He starts preparations on November 1 with a goal of lighting up on Thanksgiving night.  And even then, his work is not over.  Each night when he shuts down Happyland, he carefully covers up the most fragile of the décor and deflates all the blow ups.  And when a camel loses his head in a nasty fall from a gust of wind?  He undergoes an intense neck surgery via welding, gluing and painting.

Happyland has grown annually since its conception as Bobby adds more to his plethora of festive baubles.  A top-hatted snowman and an army of toy soldiers are his oldest of the clan,while this year he added a 20-foot Santa to his accoutrement. 

Throw in an assortment of thingamajigs mixed with a handful of doodads, including but not limited to:

  • A shark on the hunt after a fishing boat, which has also accompanied Bobby to many-a Jimmy Buffet concert
  • A real working old-timey fire truck, Bobby’s pride and joy, which he found at a car dealership for an irresistible bargain

    Bobby Moore with his grandson, R.L. (upper far right) and my two oldest babes, Eva and Luca

  • A motorized merry-go-round and homemade working ferris wheel made by Bobby himself
  • A life-sized manger set
  • Santa in his sleigh being pulled by all his reindeer heading out into the night sky (Shhh: It’s lifted by a cherry picker)
  • An NC State Wolf roasting a UNC Tarheel (Because nothing is better than a kabobed Ram.)
  • A Santa Claus coming out of an outhouse post potty break (Sorry, no photo of that.  It’s a must-see in person kind of thing.)
  • A handmade, hand painted wooden Sponge Bob scene
  • A Star Wars scene, saving you a trip to the theatre
  • Santa’s workshop surrounded by bustling elves and reindeer busy at work
  • A picturesque white house with a wrap around front porch covered in snowflakes and white lights.  Sometimes Santa makes an appearance in the window.
  • An abundance of Christmas trees and thousands upon thousands of lights
and you’ve got yourself Happyland.
Sure, he’s got the occasional Grinch neighbor who gets into a huff over the extra nighttime traffic.  To those folks I say “bah humbug”.  Trying to be thoughtful, Bobby waits until later in the evening (6:30 pm) after most have returned home from work to light up Happyland so as to not cause them strife with neighborhood traffic.  We all know that you can’t please everyone, but Bobby Moore certainly pleases the majority of revelers who come by to see what new sparkly knickknacks he’s added to the bunch.
Though his electric bill increases 1,000% in the five or so weeks that Happyland is aglow, Bobby asks nothing for the spreading of joy; he thinks of it as his gift to his hometown.  One weekend during the holiday season, however, he or one of his family members stand at the road and collect money to be donated to Bob’s Buddies, which is a charity started by local radio celebrity Bob Dumas from G105 and benefits the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.  Bob and Bobby became friends when Bob used to travel around the Triangle searching for the best holiday decorations during the Bob and the Showgram Tinsel Tour.  No Tinsel Tour is complete without a visit to Happyland.  This weekend (December 11-13) is the weekend that he plans to accept donations.
Bobby says that this year is Happyland’s last hurrah.  Let’s all hope that it’s simply the exhaustion talking, but just in case he’s serious, you’d better head on over and check it out while you can.
For more information about Happyland, including updates on blackouts due to weather, head over to Happyland Christmas Lights’ Facebook page.
4 Comments
  • Sharon
    December 9, 2015

    Love the article, can’t wait to see🎄🎅🏽

  • MACK ONEal
    December 8, 2015

    that jolly bearded man is truly a joy to know and one of my best friends

  • Edna Reynolds
    December 8, 2015

    I questioned him last year, on the Happyland page, about this being the last year. He said that this WOULD be the final year of Happyland as it is currently. BUT….he said he’s not completely shutting down, just scaling WAY back!

  • Ivy brooks
    December 8, 2015

    Great write up. Bobby and Jan are dolls and willing to help everyone. Their display is wonderful. Thank you for your post

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