ARITON — Ralph Ritteman can see it: 80 acres full of family entertainment that includes a paintball area and arcade, stages and entertainers for hundreds of people at a time.
He just needs patrons to enjoy the festivities.
Ritteman said he is reopening Christmas City in Ariton at the corner of Alabama Highway 51 and Dale County Road 72 as the year-round Family Fun Park. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, he said the park will open its gates with concerts featuring local talent, pony rides and a puppet show by puppeteer Gordon Bennett.
Friday’s music headliner at the park’s theater, “America’s Stars of Tomorrow Theater,” is Shane Owens. Ritteman said he plans to open an arcade and paintball area in Christmas City later, as well as offer a petting zoo and pony and hayrides, a lakefront park for fishing and games and church events.
He said a restaurant and some stores are also planned, in addition to puppet shows by puppeteer Gordon Bennett.
Ritteman, who said he is a World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veteran with a real estate background, said Christmas City closed about five years ago.
He said he intends to open the fun park around Christmas time for an experience similar to what Christmas City brought to the community.
“It’s really satisfying, to see all the work we’ve put in over the last six months finally coming around,” Ritteman said on a walk through the park on Thursday.
“It’s also a little bit frightening because it takes a lot to make this work. But Christmas City was known all over the country, so hopefully I have what it takes to make it work again.”
Ritteman said he hopes the fun park fills a void of family entertainment venues in Dale County.
“There’s really no place for whole families to go and everyone have something to enjoy,” he said. “I hope (families will) find that here.”