Finney County Historical Society
People across Southwest Kansas are invited to celebrate Christmas at the Finney County Historical Museum, where the annual holiday open house has been scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 14.
The come and go gathering will offer seasonal snacks, live music and the museum’s Christmas exhibit, featuring a mechanical Santa’s Workshop diorama, dating to about 1950, that is displayed every other year.
There will also be unique Christmas shopping opportunities in the Museum Store, as well as booths with crafts and products offered by a variety of visiting vendors. In addition, free antique car rides will be available and those who attend before or during the event can purchase tickets in a Christmas quilt raffle.
The museum is located at 403 S. Fourth Street in Garden City’s Finnup Park, adjacent to the pedestrian arches at Lee Richardson Zoo. Admission is free and regular exhibit viewing hours during the winter season are 1 to 5 p.m. seven days weekly.
A group of volunteer carolers will perform between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., singing traditional selections of the season for the fourth consecutive year.
Among shopping opportunities in the Museum Store, which is open concurrently with exhibits and during the open house, are long and short-sleeve T-shirts that replicate sugar sack images from the old Garden City Sugar Factory that operated from 1906 to 1955; as well as the nostalgic 1950s Garden City movie on DVD, “This is Our Town.” There are also T-shirts connected to the popular True Crime exhibit and a new series, expected soon, with images by the late Garden City photographer Rudy Valenzuela.
The Finney County Historical Society’s 2020 Historic Finney County Calendar will be on sale during the open house, featuring a variety of traditional and stylized scenes from the community’s history. The museum gift shop will also offer gifts linked to Kansas history and culture, goods crafted by Southwest Kansas artists and artisans, regional and local souvenirs and a selection of books by local and regional authors.
Several of the visiting vendors are back from the museum’s summer season Flea Market Festival of Antiques, Collectibles, Art and Crafts, and their booths will be set up in the museum’s meeting room and adjacent hallway. Entry for the open house will be available through the main and north doorways.
The antique car rides, popular each year at the event, are expected to include a 1930 Ford Model A, a 1954 Ford pickup and a 1955 Ford Fairlane, weather permitting. Vehicle boarding will be available outside the main entrance, with free tickets available inside at the reception desk.
The raffle, with tickets at $5 each or five for $20, includes a chance to win a quilt created by well-known Garden City quilt maker Cricket Turley. Spanning approximately 68 by 85 inches, it was assembled with the theme of “Once Upon a Memory,” employing nostalgic Victorian-era winter scenes, accented with images of sleds, mittens, Christmas bells and skates in hues of red, green and tan.
Turley hand-pieced the work and it was quilted at Prairie Flower Quilts. The winning ticket will be drawn at random at the conclusion of the open house. The winner doesn’t have to be present to win, and ticket sales are under way now and through the open house.
The Christmas diorama being displayed in the museum’s Front Door Gallery will be flanked this year by a collection of mixed media works of holiday art, created by children participating in a pair of recent youth workshops at Garden City Arts. Some include Christmas tree scenes and others feature gift wish lists. All of the pieces were fashioned by children under the guidance of Katy Guthrie, director of the local Main Street art center and gallery.
The diorama itself stands three feet high and seven feet wide. Originally built by Gregory Motors of Brooklyn, NY about 1950, it incorporates seven moving figures, including Santa Claus and his elves as they prepare toys and gifts for delivery around the world. It was discovered early in 2015 in an old coal storage area at the 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 50-60 volunteer hours to cleaning, repairing and putting the three-dimensional display into working condition. Some Garden City residents recall seeing the display at Garnand Furniture many Christmas seasons ago, when the store occupied much of the 1889 hotel’s ground floor.