FRANKENMUTH, MI – Anyone who has traveled I-75 North of Flint and beyond has seen the roadside signs. The Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland and it’s 27 acre site right off the highway. The “store” itself is the size of two football fields. The Wonderland draws more than two million visitors every year, and has become one of the top ten man-made attractions in the entire state of Michigan.
It’s hard to believe that this giant extravaganza got its start as a little sign shop more than 70 years ago. Wally Bronner and his wife, Irene, built their own building in 1954, and even then half the sign shop was dedicated to Christmas decorations. Now, there are 350 decorated Christmas trees, 6,000 types of ornaments, more than 500 different nativities, and 50,000 trims and gifts.
The outer focus of Wally Bronner’s life was the store, but the inner focus was his relationship with Jesus Christ. Bronner was clearly a successful businessman, but he said that it was Jesus who had given his life meaning and purpose. So, Wally built his business around the Person he honored with the capitalized letters of “CHRIST”in Christmas. The gift of salvation he had received from God had so dramatically changed Bronner’s life that he loved to share it with others. In fact, visitors to the company website will find a clear presentation of the Gospel here. https://www.bronners.com/topic/the-story-of-wally-bronner.do?from=fn&sortby=ourPicks.
Wally loved working at his store, and even late in life he would spend 10 hours a day welcoming his visitors. He would joke that he only worked on days that end in “y”. Bronner passed away on April 1st, 2008. He joked that he was going to heaven “to make sure the decorative touches are in place.”
On his last Good Friday on earth Bronner wrote these words, “Today’s Good Friday was an especially GOOD FRIDAY when our dear family in prayer agreed to the reality that our loving Lord and Savior – the CHRIST of CHRISTmas – is ready to receive me into his heavenly kingdom where all believers in the Creator God will be with him FOREVER AND EVER...NOTHING COULD BE GREATER!”
Wally Bronner understood what it meant to be a Christ follower and exhibited such in all his affairs. His example stands the test of time as people from all over come to his CHRISTmas store not just to spend money, but to experience the Spirit of Christmas.