There is no shortage of things to do around the holidays. Unfortunately for us, any activity, especially one in Tucson, takes away from preparing for the girls’ grandparents to arrive on Christmas week. Thankfully, Fort Huachuca has plenty of holiday events. And when one of the biggest of the season is literally a block from our house, there is really no excuse not to grab the girls and join in on the fun.
The Night of Extraordinary Lights (or NOEL, because the Army loves their acronyms) Holiday Village is an annual event on Fort Huachuca that includes the post tree lighting, meeting with Santa, various activities, and tents featuring local vendors. While I was not originally planning to attend, I realized that the girls would probably enjoy it (I had previously hesitated because the winds were so hectic) and that it is my duty as an officer to support such events on post. After we were about 200 feet from the house, the girls saw the lights from tree and started going nuts.
The insanity only got more pronounced once they started seeing the activities. Before even getting into the village proper, there were pony rides, a Polar Express “train” ride, laser tag, and a ton of holiday inflatables.
Immediately as the girls entered the holiday village, they were approached by the Grinch. As a kid, I would have run in terror at the sight of him. My girls, on the other hand, just ran right up to him and hugged him (makes sense, as the 2018 version is much more approachable than the 1966 version that I grew up with). It must have left an impression, as Elaina wanted to watch The Grinch (2018) when we got back home for family movie night.
We proceeded to walk all around the entire holiday village before strating activities, but had to stop to get Elaina a brownie and a hot chocolate first. A children’s activity tent, sitting with Santa, a S’mores area, a mini ice skating rink… there was so much for the girls to do.
They chose to go on the Polar Express “train” ride first. They see attractions like this all the time at the Reid Park Zoo or in one of the Tucson malls, but they have never been on one, because in my eyes it is pretty much just a car ride (but since this one was free, I felt much better about it).
They loved it, laughing and talking, waving to me the whole time. And since there was only a small line, I figured that they would want to go on it again and again.
Nope. Since it was now Gabriella’s turn to pick, she wanted nothing more than to ride the ponies. On our way over there, we stumbled through the holiday dioramas. During every holiday event on Fort Huachuca, there are contests pitting the different units against one another. For instance, at the Haunted Hayride event, our unit got 3rd place for the best Halloween scenario. The event for the NOEL Holiday Village was holiday dioramas, of which we had one submission. It portrayed a Drill Sergeant as Santa Claus with Soldiers pulling the sleigh, which was pretty funny.
The other submissions were Star Wars dioramas, which you know I am a sucker for, one of which was Mandalorian-themed, Baby Yoda and all.
Unfortunately, the ponies had left for the evening, so we headed over to the children’s activity tent… when they ran into Elsa and Anna. No longer afraid of Elsa’s powers, they just ran up to them a gave out bear hugs. Gabriella was especially excited, as she was wearing her Anna hair-hat.
The children’s activity tent featured several stations to create unique Christmas ornaments for your tree, which was great because I am all about unique and meaningful ornaments. Most of the stations involved rainbow scratch paper cut out in different shapes, which the girls really loved.
We also ran into Elora’s family (Elaina’s best friend) in the activity tent. Which was great because their two girls played with mine while we all got to talk about our holiday plans. Everybody wins!
The last ornament activity was the stained plastic station. The girls each used permanent markers (with no accidents!) to color in a fish, toucan, and two chameleons. This was a great stop, as we now have five more unique ornaments with memories attached to them on the tree.
After buying handmade Disney princess headbands from a local retailer’s tent, the girls conveniently ran into Mickey Mouse. Afterwards, we waited in line to see Santa for about five minutes before I had enough of trying to press that. Elaina really did not want to see him and Gabriella was pretty indifferent (but not wanting to wait in line); sometimes there are things that you really want them to do that are just not worth the hassle. Before leaving, we walked over to the S’mores station. Elaina walked straight up to the volunteer and said, “S’mores please. No chocolate, no graham cracker. Just the marshmallow, not toasted…. please.” The guy looked up at me, where I shrugged and said “Can you do that?” As they walked away eating their untoasted marshmallows, the whole thing just felt wrong. I mean, what kids not only do not like S’mores, but also do not just take the chocolate and the graham cracker (they had Fudge Stripes cookies instead, which now sounds amazing) and eat them separately? Apparently, my kids. We will just have to work on that.
This was a fun event for us and I am glad we took the time out of our evening to go to it. Always good to see my colleagues outside of work and in a more casual environment. And events like this just continue to reinforce that, even though Fort Huachuca is a small Army post in the middle of nowhere, it is a very tight-knit community where there is always something to do. Which is great for the girls and I, as we are certainly not wasting any time here. As they were running towards the post Christmas tree, one of my superiors told me that my girls were “just adorable.” Yes, Ma’am; they certainly are.
Thanks for checking in on us.