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December 5, 2011

Museum room added to Santa's Workshop

Something is happening at Santa's Workshop on Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, and it has all the elves and gnomes buzzing.

It's the new museum room, and it's filled with nostalgic memorabilia that spans the six decades the theme park has been open.

"I've really wanted to do this for years," said park manager Matt Stanley. "It has been a dream of Mr. Reiss (the former owner whose father built the park in 1949) for a very long time — he's going to love it."

The wheels of progress began turning after a flood from tropical storm Irene ripped through the park, washing out foot bridges, wreaking havoc and depositing water and silt in what used to be the candle shop. The candles were moved to a different location, and the room was cleaned and prepared for something new.

Display cases were brought in from the flooded Red Barn antique shop in Upper Jay, and the elves set to work spiffing them up with fresh coats of bright red paint. Then an anonymous donor lent a sizable collection of Santa's Workshop souvenirs to the project, which combined with things from the theme park to make an impressive collection.

Exhibit curator "Julie Jingles" has been working hard to match old black and white photographs with artifacts that have been stuffed in attics, closets, nooks and crannies.

"It has been like a treasure hunt," she said.

"There were things squirreled away in the most unlikely places. For instance, just yesterday Johnny Jingle came in with some old wooden toys he found in a dusty attic and, once cleaned up, they will be perfect for display."

The wooden toys are charming and nostalgic — a reflection of Arto Monaco of Upper Jay, the artist who designed the Alpine village where Santa and Mrs. Claus now make their home. They will go into an exhibit case along with other objects — such as pottery, dolls, candles, clocks and blown glass — all made in the demonstration shops during the 1950s through 1970s.

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