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Z Fun Factory to be new venue for Christmas Village
Click here to see photos of the Christmas Village on the move
The fanciful village of kid-sized playhouses that's sprung to life amid the historic buildings of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park for the past three years has a new home.
The key to Christmas Village was handed over Thursday morning to Brice Zeller by Linda Jordan, executive director of Yuma Visitors Bureau, which created its Christmas Village event in 2010.
Thursday afternoon, the playhouses were to be loaded up and transported under police escort that evening to Z Fun Factory.
Z Fun Factory and Waylon's Water World, a family entertainment complex and water park owned by Brice and Becky Zeller, will take over ownership of the event and the signature buildings that were originally designed and built by Bobby Lemmon of Tom Lemmon Drywall Inc.
“We're excited to turn the keys to the Christmas Village over to Brice and Becky Zeller,” said Jordan as Santa Claus stood by her side. “It's a great match with their business and the perfect ‘forever home' for a great holiday event.”
Jordan noted that the Zellers have the room and the infrastructure in place to nurture and grow the Christmas Village and the event, both for Yuma families and for out-of-town visitors.
“We're delighted that Yuma Visitors Bureau could serve as an incubator for an idea that a private-sector business really can grow and take to the next level,” she said.
The Zellers plan to permanently place the Christmas Village on a vacant lot on their property, where it can be used for a variety of events throughout the year and not be limited to the Christmas season. Zeller said the village will be available for booking parties. He also plans to use it for other holidays during the year, such as a pumpkin patch in October and decorate it for Thanksgiving as well as open the Christmas Village event earlier in December.
“They're such unique buildings,” he said. “They should be shown off more often.”
Having to move and store the buildings during the off season was a major hurdle with continuing the event at the Quartermaster Depot, Jordan said. Parking was also an issue with redevelopment and building continuing downtown.
“We're excited about bringing this event to our place and continuing what's already a great Yuma Christmas tradition,” Zeller said. “When we bought the Fun Factory and built Waylon's Water World, we committed ourselves to creating fun opportunities for Yuma families, and this is just an expansion of that commitment. It's a great opportunity, and should be a win-win for everyone.”
About 10,000 people came through the village over the seven nights it was open this Christmas, noted Jordan.
That's nearly as many people who visited the Quartermaster Depot in a entire year before the state leased the park to the city of Yuma, said Charles Flynn, executive director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, which operates the park for the city.
Today, the park draws between 80,000 and 90,000 visitors a year, largely through the efforts of the Yuma Visitors Bureau, Flynn said.
As efforts continue to develop the Quartermaster Depot with new exhibits and Christmas Village grew, it was time to find a new home for the event, he said.
For example, he said, Christmas Village is being moved out this week to facilitate installation of a special traveling exhibit on Alcatraz Prison that was created for the National Park Service by Alcatraz Cruises. The Alcatraz exhibit opens Jan. 12 and will remain at the Quartermaster Depot through April 14.