There won’t be any maids-a-milking, lords-a-leaping or swans-a-swimming, but we’re planning our annual holiday open house here at the Finney County Historical Museum, and those who come can still find plenty of Christmas fun.
The celebration is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 9, and we’ll be featuring a new exhibit in the Front Door Gallery, where we stage short-term displays six times each year. This season’s exhibit is an antique, mechanical diorama depicting Santa’s Workshop, returning by popular demand after debuting back in 2015.
The workshop, seven feet long and three feet high, was displayed downtown in the Garnand Furniture window each Christmas, beginning about 1950, with seven moving figures of St. Nick and his elves as they prepare toys and gifts for delivery around the world. It was discovered in an old coal storage area at the historic Windsor Hotel, dirty and damaged, and donated to the historical society by the Finney County Preservation Alliance though efforts of the late Don Harness.
Local craftsman, carpenter and toy collector Tom Herman devoted 50 to 60 volunteer hours to cleaning, repairing and putting the three-dimensional display back into working order, and museum visitors enjoyed it so much that we decided to place it back on display every other year. This time, it’s going to be surrounded by an intricate Coca-Cola Christmas village on loan from Linda Miller of Garden City.
The exhibit hasn’t opened yet, but we hope to have the workshop back in business soon after Thanksgiving. If you come to see it during the open house on Dec. 9, you’ll also find:
• A selection of seasonal snacks and beverages, offered for everyone in the family
• Unique holiday shopping, including surprises and discoveries in the Museum Gift shop
• Antique car rides, providing a free spin around Finnup Park in your choice of vehicle
• Old-time Christmas carolers, giving live performances between noon and 2:30 p.m.
• A small extravaganza of visiting vendors, in booths stocked with plenty of specialty products and craft items.
The museum’s store is also open 1 to 5 p.m. seven days weekly before and after the open house, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Among items in our array of goods produced by southwest Kansas artisans and artists are Santa Fe Trail whole bean coffees, Sage House Soaps, Twisted Creations iron and horseshoe art, rustic wooden Christmas signs, Doris Walker cotton purses, color Kansas landscape images by Shirley Creeden, original sketches by Robert Meyer, pottery by Brian McCallum and Kansas scenes by Images on Stone. There are also photo greeting cards by Curtis Perez, whimsical creations by KK and Lulu, Kreative Stitches T-shirts by Donald Holsten, household handcrafts by Vivian Michael and outdoor furniture by Jerry Lalicker.
In addition, we’re stocking a selection of books by regional authors, battery and digital-free toys inspired by past times, a growing collection of Kansas and sunflower items, Garden City souvenirs and postcards, and “This is Our Town,” the nostalgic 1953 Garden City movie on DVD. You can also find the “Hometown Kansas Christmas” CD benefit album, with performances by Southwest Kansas singers.
Antique cars and carolers
The antique car rides will take place at no charge this year, but those who enjoy their Christmas cruises will be welcome to make free-will donations. Right now, we’re expecting a vividly-painted 1954 Ford pickup; a two-tone 1955 Ford Fairlane, probably piloted by Santa Claus himself; and one or two 1929-1930 Ford Model A sedans or coupes.
Our carolers debuted last year to an appreciative audience. This year’s group of volunteer singers will probably grow from five to eight or more, returning to share their own versions of everything from “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night” to “Jingle Bells” and “We Three Kings” The caroling, with a break or two, is scheduled for noon to 2:30 p.m. in the museum’s Spirit of the Plains Gallery.
The visiting vendor extravaganza is an added element this year. In addition to shopping for gifts and goods in the museum store, guests at the open house will get the chance to browse and peruse among booths set up by local and area craft and product merchants, offering things such as Premiere Jewelry, Scentsy products, LaLarue clothing, ParTea products and teas, craft goods, re-claimed wood items and other discoveries.
There’s obviously no shortage of holiday events across Finney County this season, including Tuba Christmas at 3 p.m. Dec. 9 and a Christmas parade at 6 p.m. Dec. 10, both downtown, but we hope you’ll also find time for our open house that weekend, even without any leaping lords, milking maids or swimming swans.
Steve Quakenbush is the executive director of the Finney County Historical Society.