Candy Clough, Curator at Santa's Castle, has announced her retirement after five seasons leading the Storm Lake attraction
. Clough says she decided it was time to hand the reigns over to someone else this year but says all the children she met over the years will always hold a special place in her heart. "I got to make magic in that job. It was an experience I'll never forget," she says.
Clough fondly remembers the landmark from her own childhood, when she would help her grandfather, who served as caretaker of the structure when it was Storm Lake's Carnegie Library.
The Castle had a successful holiday season with over 6,000 visitors, but Clough says each year the project becomes more and more labor intensive. She hopes to focus her time and energies on other commitments including teaching piano and serving as the music director at the Church of Christ.
Over the years many hours were spent brainstorming new ideas for themes and creating just the right look for the museum, with new displays created each season.
Animated items had to be kept in working order and each had just the right spot in the museum. Clough says she enjoyed three Christmas story favorites during her time at the Castle - 'Twas the Night Before Christmas,' 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' and this past year's 'The Nutcracker' which featured about 300 nutcrackers of all sizes.
Clough says the decision to retire was a sad one and says she will particularly miss that last minute each year just before she opened the museum for the season. "It was a real adrenaline rush," she says.
She will also miss all the children she met over the years "I loved it when the school kids came through in groups, that was the best - the little ones were so excited," she says. Clough enjoyed seeing families grow as they returned each year. For many families she says coming each year had become a family tradition. Clough also met many visitors from across the globe. "It's made my life rich," she says.
Clough says she is thankful for the thousands of hours volunteers and Santas put in and the donations that were made to help make each season a success and help keep the museum maintained. "It's Storm Lake's treasure," she says. In 2008 with the help of Brett Nelson and community members Clough says they attempted to hold a world record for the largest ball of dead Christmas lights. She says she doesn't know of any other giant ball of Christmas lights so says it might just be fun to finish it and have it for a display even it if will never officially hold a world record title.
About five years ago when Clough first started at the museum she says she was asked by the Santa Castle committee if she'd be willing to help with the displays and says after one Christmas season she enjoyed it so much she asked the committee if they'd be willing to hire her on part-time to be a curator at the museum. "I enjoyed it so much and really saw some potential for the castle," she says. Over the years Clough worked many long hours and wore many hats but says it was worth it when she saw the children's faces. During her career at the Castle Clough says the building received a facelift with new carpeting, new paint, a new roof as well as new landscaping as well as other work completed on the exterior of the building.