Saturday, December 26, 2009

Santa's Workshop and Winter Wonderland in Cody Park - A Holiday Tradition

Cody Park is an extremely busy place in North Platte all year around. The first part of September sees the park filled with vendor booths for the annual Arts In The Park. Right on the heels of that comes the North Platte Rail Fest.

All of these events keep the parks department personnel hopping, and their work is really only beginning after the railroad displays and booths are cleared out of the park.

The weather may still say it's summer, but the parks department is already thinking about Christmas.
It's time to begin planning and preparing for the annual Santa's Workshop and Winter Wonderland. For more than fifty years, the animated display has signaled the onset of the Christmas holiday season.
Families enjoy roasting marshmallows for s'mores at the braziers maintained by parks personnel.

The history of the display goes all the way back to 1946 when Leo Anderson of Leo's Floral first created the display, which was first exhibited on the front porch of their home. Each year the Andersons added more figures until they closed the floral shop in 1981 and sold part of the display to the city of North Platte.
Santa's workshop was originally displayed in North Platte's Memorial Park, but the move to Cody Park was made in 2002. This allowed more events to be scheduled around the existing kiddie rides and concession stand.
A perennial favorite is the antique carousel.
The historic Herschell-Spillman carousel dates from 1913 and was updated in 2004.
The figures include 24 jumping horses and two chariots, one a stagecoach, in keeping with Cody Park's history as the location of the first Wild West Show produced by one of North Platte's favorite residents, Buffalo Bill Cody.
The goal is to have the display ready to go on the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday. This year however, the more than three feet of snow North Platte received in October set the project behind and the display opened on December 5.
Water had damaged much of the display before the city was able to use it for the first time back in 1981. Members of North Platte's RSVP program worked tirelessly to restore the displays. Many individuals, clubs and organizations continue to assist the parks department in providing this Christmas tradition to the community of North Platte.
The display currently consists of nine huts, each one showcasing a different aspect of the Christmas celebration. The latest hut debuted just the Saturday before Christmas, showing that the work is ongoing.
Anyone is welcome to build or purchase a new hut. There are huts that are memorials to loved ones, gifts to the city, and even one that was built as a family project.
A single animated figure can cost as much as $500.00, and many of the figures are beginning to show their age. There are donation boxes set up at various locations throughout the display, and people are very generous, but the high cost of maintaining and replacing the displays means that the donations barely keep up.
In addition to adding new displays, the parks personnel are always working to add new activities. This year was the Golden Goose Scavenger Hunt. Maps were distributed at the concession stand, and kids scouted through the park to spot all of the Golden Geese. The National Guard provided tons of prizes for the successful competitors.
If your family is interested in adding to the display, contacting the City of North Platte Parks Department will get you on the right road.

One new event this year, sponsored by the North Platte Chamber of Commerce Hostesses was the "Kids on Parade". It was successful enough that plans are in the works to continue it year after year.
There are both horse drawn and tractor drawn hayrack rides for the enjoyment of the visitors.

There's still time to visit the North Pole in North Platte. The huts and animated figures are on display through December 30.
The great Blizzard of 2009 has made this a strange year for Christmas celebrations, as many loved ones have been stranded far from home. I hope this pictoral essay will make your holidays brighter if your Christmas wasn't what you hoped for.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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