A display at Christmas Fantasy in Tilden Park. Photo by Tara Taylor
A display at Christmas Fantasy in Tilden Park this year. Photo: Tara Taylor

For the last 20 years, families have flocked to the Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round during its annual Christmas Fantasy. But this year, something is different. The Oyarzun family no longer holds the lease. The East Bay Regional Parks District awarded it to a new operator, Sycamore Concessions, run by Doreen and Steve Kwansnicki..

In an Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside, Heidi Ross laments that the spirit of Christmas has fled the building.

“Gone is the glorious ring of tall Christmas trees, where families would seek out that special, perfect ornament each year. The CAL tree, the rainbow tree, the ocean tree, the cowboy tree, the teddy bear tree…gone. There are still a few small trees, with ornaments that look like they came from Target. Gone is Santa’s little outdoor house, where families can bring their own cameras and have pics taken in Santa’s cosy home.”

Not so fast, argues Tara Taylor in another Opinionator piece. Christmas Fantasy is less spectacular this year, without a doubt, she said. But that may be in part because the new operators, who took over just recently, have focused on repairing and upgrading the historic merry-go-round.

They have been caught off guard, and reactions have hurt them, said Taylor.

“Kwansnicki says he and his wife began preparing for Christmas Fantasy in November with the fear that they would never be able to measure up to what Oyarzun created. The Kwansnickis were not prepared for visitor’s expectations and vocal disappointments. Steve says his wife was in tears after the first Yelp reviews came in.”

What do you think? Have you checked out the carousel recently? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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