I remember being that round-eyed child looking into a magical world within the store windows during snowy Decembers in the 1950s and ‘60s. There lived elves at the North Pole or little people straight from the pages of Charles Dickens. I felt like with one of my small child’s steps I could go through the window pane and be part of that village.
Growing up on a hobby farm halfway between the small town of North St. Paul and the big metropolis of the Twin Cities, I had the best of all worlds, especially at Christmas time. The small shop windows would be dressed to the nines with lights and sparkles, while the downtown shops in St. Paul and Minneapolis would become the dreams of children. And then there was the eighth-floor of Dayton’s, where the auditorium became the world’s best diorama to celebrate the holidays. Starting in 1963 with Santa’s Enchanted Forest to the last show in 2016, Dayton’s was a holiday destination.
Those great memories were one of the reasons I volunteered to coordinate ReVive Virginia’s first annual Queen City Christmas window decoration contest this year. With the help of Maija Biondich, Scott Asbach and others, the word went out to businesses in town to sign up, and the response was incredible. Twenty windows on Chestnut Street and off were entered into the competition this year! A few didn’t complete decorating by the judging date, but what a great start for a new community effort.
There are three categories for window decorating in the contest: Painted Mural, Holiday Story/Vignette, and Light Show. From the windows of the Lyric Annex painted by the second through sixth grade actors of Small Parts Players to the thousands of lights at Access Broadband on 5th Avenue, there’s something to enjoy both day and night. Small Parts Players are this year’s winner of the painted mural, and Access Broadband received the honors in the light show category.
Speaking of the Dayton’s displays, I found out that the figures in the windows of Canelake’s Candies were purchased at an auction of the collection from Dayton’s. Talk about visions of sugar plums! Pamela Canelake Mattson and Dennis Mattson, owners of Canelake’s at 414 Chestnut Street, had a lot of fun creating their holiday window. Pamela’s sister, artist Patricia Canelake restored the faces of the figures. The crew at the store dressed them up and designed a look into a dreamer’s candy shop, complete with antique ribbon candy press and huge candy canes. Canelake’s is this year’s winner of the holiday story/vignette category.
In addition to the three award winners, contest participants include Virginia Floral, Up North Dental, Jim’s Floral, Pep’s Bakery, The Card Shop, T-Squared (decorated by Virginia area Girl Scouts), Residential Services, Range Office Supply, Grande’s Hardware, Ink’d Graphics, Pace Analytical, Newsette, Snicker’s Pizza and Frandsen Bank. Even though there were only three awards, all of the contestants and our community are big winners.
The Queen City Christmas organizers, judges and participants encourage you to take a stroll downtown on a snowy evening. Bring a youngster along. Press your noses to the window and let your imagination have free rein. Be filled with the light and good cheer of the season. Happy holidays, everyone!
Mary McReynolds lives in Virginia, MN.