ST. MATTHEWS -- The elves have been busy at the Calhoun County Museum and Cultural Center preparing for the third annual Elf Hunt and Winter Wonderland of Lights that opens at 5:30 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 30. Although this night of holiday cheer was supposed to be a one-time event, it’s now in its third year.

“What was humbling was that we only planned to do it one year, and when the first event happened, 90 percent of the people that came had never been here before," said Debbie Roland, director at the Calhoun County Museum and Cultural Center.

Last year’s Elf Hunt and Winter Wonderland of Lights brought in more than 400 participants ready to get into the holiday spirit and learn some history while they were at it. Those who attend this year’s event will receive a card containing hints of hidden elves’ whereabouts. Following these hints will lead visitors throughout the meticulously lit and decorated halls of the museum, where they’ll search for elves and maybe even learn a thing or two. The hints will be historical and relative to the museum’s vast collection.

“We’re using a different approach to bring people together to have some holiday fun, and it’s an educational experience,” Roland said. “This I am passionate about. I want the stories of yesteryear to stay alive for children that come through."

Also during the event, there will be a drawing that children under the age of 12 can enter. The winner will be awarded a gift.

Roland said there will not be a prize for the Elf Hunt.

“We are not into instant gratification. We want people to become familiar with the collection and know something about the history. What makes us different is we’re not high tech. The person who comes in -- we want to make their experience fun. We want it to be individual. Every item has its own story. We recreate what each item means," she said.

“Everyone’s on iPads and what have you. That’s great, but we want to create memories.”

While hunting down elves, participants will find many photo ops. There will be balloon twisting, among other forms of entertainment.

“On opening night, we will have Disney characters, and Dickens characters will be singing. A quartet will be roaming and caroling. It’s just a very comfortable, fun evening”, Roland said.

Also featured will be two stage performances by Disney characters at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“There will be magical moments created at the Calhoun County Museum on that night," Roland said.

Due to the popularity of the Elf Hunt and Winter Wonderland, those coming must call ahead to register. Participation is limited, and openings are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Calhoun County Museum and Cultural Center can be reached at 803-874-3964

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