The annual Northern Lights celebration at L.L. Bean’s campus in Freeport started with a single Christmas tree and now features hundreds of illuminated trees and activities for the whole family. Jason Pafundi photo

FREEPORT — Walt Berry remembers visiting L.L. Bean’s flagship store 15 years ago around the holidays and being dismayed at what he saw as lackluster decorations and décor for such a Maine icon.

Times have changed. Now, in its 14th year, the annual Northern Lights Celebration has grown from a single large Christmas tree to a complete transformation of the retail giant’s campus into a winter wonderland featuring hundreds of illuminated trees, Santa’s workshop and reindeer barn and holiday activities for the whole family.

Reindeer from Pony Xpress in Winslow are big attractions at the annual Northern Lights celebration at L.L. Bean’s campus in Freeport. Jason Pafundi photo

On a cold, clear Saturday night in early December, Berry and his wife were among hundreds of people wandering around the L.L. Bean campus, taking selfies and family photos in front of towering Christmas trees, inside a new life-sized snow globe and with Santa Claus. Others tried to get the attention of the three reindeer inside a pen.

“Reindeer just seem to be a fantasy creature, so being able to see them up close is really something special,” said Allison Breen, who looked on with her 6-year-old son Mikey.

For the past four years, Candis Veilleux and Ed Papsis of Pony Xpress in Winslow have brought their reindeer to L.L. Bean’s campus in Freeport for people’s enjoyment during the Northern Lights celebration. And each year, the fascination with the animals gets bigger.

While they look right at home in the cold, snowy Maine winter, reindeer are native to Scandinavia. Veilleux said the animals do a great job when its cold, but they don’t get really excited until the temperature is well below zero.

“Then you’ll see them running and playing. They love it. The colder, the better,” she said. “They’re made for severe, severe cold.”

This year, the large central tree is decorated with illuminated multi-color water bottles, similar to the first Northern Lights tree in 2006, and the walk-in snow globe returned this year with a new design.

“Each and every year we seek to provide great family fun that combines the wonder of the holiday season with the joy of the outdoors in every season,” said Eric C. Smith, a senior public relations representative for L.L. Bean. “That’s why we’ve moved from a single tree to a forest of groves and trails, live reindeer and hot cocoa heated over an open fire.”

The annual Northern Lights celebration brought back a popular attraction this year with a new and improved design — the walk-in snow globe. Jason Pafundi photo

For this season’s celebration, L.L. Bean teamed up with WinterKids, a longstanding community partner, to remind kids of all ages of the importance and fun of staying active outdoors all winter long.

“The WinterKids StoryWalk is a fun new addition to the Northern Lights Celebration,” Smith said.

The day after Thanksgiving, the opening night event and Tree Lighting Ceremony drew several thousand people, and the lights remain on 24-hours a day until New Years Day. Smith said tens of thousands of customers explore Discovery Forest at all times of day in all types of weather through the holiday season.

“Santa, reindeer and wagon rides are big draws on the weekends in particular, and in recent years we’ve added events every day of the week; our Thursday pet nights have been a particular draw, as well as do-it-yourself gift-making opportunities throughout the month.

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