Craig's elves

A peek into Santa's secret woodshop in Moffat County


It's one of Craig's well-kept secrets.

It's where boy elves become men.

It's Santa's secret woodshop at Moffat County High School, and it's where dreams come true.

"We have the reputation of having some of the finest woodworking elves at our facility than at any other shop worldwide," said Craig "Elfi" Conrad, lumber expert and head elf at Santa Claus' branch facility in Craig.

The local workshop specializes in fine hand-crafted wood pieces. Elfi explained elves are trained at the headquarters at the North Pole before being assigned to specialty shops all over the globe.

His elves -- he currently has 24 -- must complete several years of intensive year-round training before graduating from the program. Then they advance to jobs with some of the world's largest toymakers.

"We have elves all over the world working factory jobs," Elfi said.

Some have even started their own toy shops, Elfi said.

Sunday marked the end of a mad rush for the elves to complete the thousands of wood toys for Santa to deliver to boys and girls today, Christmas Day.

"We all work real hard and get a lot of toys done," said Elf Zach Drew, a veteran toymaker.

Tuesday is the beginning of the elves' short vacation.

Zach said he heads for the Bahamas to escape the Moffat County weather. Elf Colton Murray said he prefers Hawaii, where he can take a break from caring for Santa's reindeer herd.

The elves get a short respite before they get back to work on toys for next year.

"They like to work on their tan," Elfi said. "I don't get a day off."

Elfi said he begins the recruitment process with Santa on Tuesday, looking for the best and the brightest to continue the Christmas tradition.

"They can be mischievous, though, too," Elfi said.

One year, the elves kidnapped the Grinch, their nemesis.

"They look at him as a threat not only to their job, but to their whole way of life," Elfi said.

The Grinch got away, and continues to try to steal Christmas each year.

And there's one rule the elves must follow.

"We don't play with toys we don't make," he said.

Some elves have been caught recently with MP3 players, a music device made by the electronic division in another part of the world. With technological toys gaining popularity, Elfi said elves fear for their careers. So they should not be playing with competing toys, Elfi said.

Elfi said the toymakers at Moffat County High School enjoy their jobs, evidenced by them singing, whistling and dancing while making toys.

"We do a mountain of things the public wouldn't want to see," Elfi joked.

But, at the end of each day, Elfi said the elves' jobs are truly fulfilling. The smiles on children's faces make the whole year's work worthwhile.

And making wood toys -- toys that Elfi said last a lifetime -- is the best part.

"Wood has a special charm and warmth about it that you can't create with plastic," Elfi said. "Nothing can really replace the joy and feel of a wood toy."

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