FUTURE, PRESENT and PAST Annual holiday open house set for Dec. 11

By Steve Quakenbush

While the first Christmas celebrations in Finney County probably took place more than 14 decades ago, each year it still seems like the season arrives far earlier than expected. 

Today, of course, digitally-controlled LED displays, inflatable yard figures and incessant TV and online advertising have replaced homemade ornaments, hand-written greeting cards and family dinners prepared on cast iron, wood-burning stoves. 

Here at the Finney County Historical Museum, however, we’re still pretty traditional when it comes to the celebrating the season, and we’re planning a community gathering that ought to offer an eclectic mix of the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries. 

Our holiday open house – back after a COVID-caused cancellation in 2020 – is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 11, giving everyone time to stop by on the same Saturday as Garden City’s Tuba Christmas concert. In case you haven’t been to visit us before, you’ll find the museum at 403 S. Fourth Street, adjacent to the pedestrian arches at Lee Richardson Zoo. 

SEASONAL SNACKS and SANTA’S WORKSHOP 

Once here, you’ll discover an array of seasonal snacks, along with a chance to view our Christmas exhibit in the museum’s Front Door Gallery. Every other year, we display a restored and functioning Santa’s Workshop diorama salvaged from the historic Windsor Hotel. Dating to about 1950, it features seven moving figures representing not only Santa Claus, but several of his ambitious elves as they sew, nail and paint gifts for the children of the world. In fact, we’ll have the diorama set up so that children (even kids in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond) can switch it on and off themselves. 

UNIQUE SHOPPING 

You can also count on some unique holiday shopping experiences. Our in-house gift store will be offering a wide range of items, many specific to local and area history and culture, as well as regionally-published books, videos and gifts that you’re not likely to find anywhere else. There will be a series of games and toys on sale too, most inspired by past times. 

In addition, our nearby Mary Regan Conference Room will be housing several visiting vendors, offering crafts and products to help complete your seasonal shopping. The assembly of entrepreneurs won’t be as large as our summertime Flea Market Festival, but it still ought to make it easy to fill lots of stockings and wrap up the last items on your gift list. 

VINTAGE VEHICLES and LIVE CAROLERS 

There’s more as well. We’ll be offering antique car rides at no charge to individuals, couples and families throughout the morning and afternoon, and riders should be able to choose between at least a trio of vintage vehicles. 

Live music is also on the agenda. We’ll feature in-house Christmas carolers performing periodically between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. inside the museum, focused on plenty of traditional favorites. 

PRIZES, GREETINGS and FELICITATIONS 

While you’re here for the festivities, or even in advance, you’ll be able to take a chance on a pair of special holiday raffle prizes too. One is a colorful basket of ornaments donated for the occasion by Elaine Garcia, a member of our board. The other is a four-place setting of historic Cuthbertson “American Christmas Tree” china, provided by former Garden City resident and museum volunteer Alan Riedel. Tickets are $5 each or five for $20, and they’re already on sale at our reception desk, with the random drawing scheduled at the end of the open house. 

All of our regular exhibits will be accessible too, and you’re welcome to view those not only on Dec. 11 but seven days weekly from 1 to 5 p.m. The only upcoming exceptions are Nov. 25-26, Dec. 24-26 and Dec. 31-Jan. 2, when we’ll be closed. 

If you make it for the open house, of course, you’re likely to encounter some of your neighbors and friends. In fact, you might even meet a few new ones, and those kinds of greetings and felicitations aren’t so different at all from the earliest Christmases observed in Garden City and Finney County so many years ago. 

Steve Quakenbush is the executive director of the Finney County Historical Society. He can be contacted at HYPERLINK "mailto:squakenbush@finneycounty.org" or at squakenbush@finneycounty.org .

Quakenbush