By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor
PALESTINE – Inspired by “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss, the Grinch’s Lair in Palestine offers kids and adults of all ages a chance to have a little “Grinch” fun in Whoville while celebrating the holiday season.
“This is our seventh year and I think it’s our best year yet. We have opened up eight more rooms – so people have a little more to explore,” event organizer Jeremy Janz said. “We try to refine each and every year something different – a new experience.”
The Grinch welcomes children and adults of all ages to visit him at his home, where he is locked up for stealing Christmas at the historic Texas Jail House venue located near the downtown Palestine area.
The Grinch’s Lair opened on Thanksgiving weekend and will continue to be open on weekends, Fridays through Sundays, through Dec. 22.
Based on the beloved children’s story “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the reclusive, bitter and grouchy green, furry creature named the Grinch wants to put an end to Christmas by stealing presents from the nearby town Whoville on Christmas Eve. But meeting an innocent little girl named Cindy Lou Who begins to melt his heart (his heart is two times smaller than the normal heart). After watching the Whoville residents joyously celebrate Christmas even without their gifts that he stole, makes the Grinch realize that maybe there is something more to Christmas than just presents (or commercialism).
“Ultimately, even the Grinch can’t hide from the fact that he got it wrong. Love, sharing and giving changes his heart,” Janz said. “It’s so funny that it takes a Grinch to show everybody else that maybe Christmas isn’t about all those things. It’s about loving each other, spreading joy, visiting with each other.”
The Grinch’s Lair brings the whimsical town of Whoville to life with a myriad of Whoville characters with their signature Whoville-flat noses, but starts with a journey up to the Grinch’s home in the Mount Krumpet Cave.
“You can stop at the Grinch’s home on the second floor or continue up to the third floor to visit with the Whoville Whos and write a letter to Santa,” Janz said. “We also have Max’s cooking show, interactive chalk walls inside the jail cells where they can sign their names and draw pictures. We have a scavenger hunt they can participate in. We have the Grinch, of course, and his jokes, and you can explore his rooms and his attractions.”
Many spots inside the venue make perfect spots to take a “selfie” with the Grinch.
“We tried to provide a lot of photogenic moments and create spaces and elements where people could pause with the Grinch and take different pictures,” Janz said.
Many out-of-towners have found the Grinch’s Lair while visiting the Palestine area for the Texas State Railroad’s Polar Express™ rides – but according to Janz – the Grinch’s Lair is becoming a destination stop on its own right.
“We get quite a few coming from Polar, but a lot more are coming just for the Grinch – especially those out of the Dallas area. We have a few coming from the Houston area, but we are definitely tapping into the Dallas market,” Janz said. “We have people coming from longer distances who have made this their tradition.”
Beyond visiting with the Grinch, it’s also a chance to see a piece of history.
“I believe everybody who comes in loves the fact that we have taken a historic property, especially the fact that it was once a jail – and we turned it into a fun, creative environment. It kind of blows their mind. One, you are saving a piece of history. Two, you have turned it into a happy, joyful place,” Janz said.
Janz describes the activity as a live interactive experience for kids and families.
“What we find is that there are not many places where you get to interact with the main character. If you get to visit with Santa, it’s for 30 seconds or a minute. But at the Grinch’s Lair, it’s more like a live interactive theater,” Janz said. “Even if there is someone who is not sure about the Grinch, like small kids, that’s okay. Max the Dog interacts with you and before you know it the Grinch is making them more comfortable, acting silly. Even if they are nervous they end up having fun and laughing.”
Even the Grinch answered a few questions for The Messenger.
“I really like the environment. It’s totally family friendly. You get to see all of the kids come through and a lot of people are from out of town. It’s really nice to see how all of the different types of families and how they bond over me – it’s super cool,” The Grinch said.
Admission to the Grinch’s Lair is $10 (ages 2 and under free). Hours are from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 22. Free hot chocolate also is provided.
The Grinch’s Lair is located at 704 Avenue A in Palestine. For more information about the Grinch’s Lair, call 903-480-0212 or visit www.texasjailhouse.com.