Monday, December 9, 2019
Monroe County Local History Room Director Jarrod Roll puts on the finishing touches of the museum’s new holiday display, Christmas Mountain, just in time for the opening reception on Tuesday. Herald photos by Nicole Vik.Visitors could spend hours taking in all of the intricate, fun details incorporated into each and every one of the buildings and accessories throughout the display.

Getting in the Christmas spirit

Museum displays late Joan Cook’s miniature collection

Staff and volunteers at the Monroe County Local History Room in Sparta have been busy little elves leading up to this Christmas season in preparation of the new holiday display, Christmas Mountain.

This magical display features over 100 lit miniature houses and buildings, featuring the Department 56 North Pole Holiday Village collection of the late Joan Cook, of Sparta. Cook had been a volunteer at the museum since its founding.

“She was very involved with our organization, but she also was an avid collector and known for decorating her house for Christmas,” Director Jarrod Roll said. “We thought this would be a wonderful way for us to recognize her as someone who really contributed to us over the years and recognize her in a way that was very Joan.”

“We also wanted to provide something really special to the public for the holidays because we like to do that,” he added. “It was important to us that it didn’t look like a Hallmark store display and we’ve put more into it than that; people expect more from us.”

According to Roll, Cook had displayed the collection at the public library in the late 1990s. Other than that, the collection typically sat in storage and she would only set out a few pieces that were special to her.

The collection, which is on loan to the museum, is displayed depicting the spectacular North Pole, set into a mountainside, illuminated with a blue glow that is similar to the Northern Lights.

Little figurines throughout the Christmas village go about their business ice-skating, shopping, building sleighs, sledding, constructing toys, caroling, baking goodies and many other fun-filled chores.

All of the village dwellings are buzzing with activity where Santa, his elves and the residents of the dreamlike community are fulfilling an array of activities. Viewers can lean in for a closer look and almost feel the warmth from the welcoming glow of each tiny window as the buildings are illuminated from within.

“There are no duplicates and every one of these are super detailed and intricate. It is a high-end collection,” Roll said, adding several pieces in the display are animated as well. “We knew already that this is a departure from what we normally do by displaying a non-historical collection and choosing to do something whimsical for the holidays.”

During the holidays, the museum typically has between 2,200 to 2,300 visitors in two months time, which is about one-fifth of its yearly visitation.

The display officially opens with a reception on Tuesday, Nov. 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. when the Cook family will officially illuminate Christmas Mountain. The last viewing day will be on Saturday, Jan. 18.

“People are invited to come to our formal opening,” Roll said. “We’ll have treats here that night and after that it will be up for two months.”

Though donations are appreciated, admission to the museum, which is located at 200 W. Main Street, is free. Regular museum hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., however, it will also be open until 8 p.m. on Nov. 29 and 30, Dec. 6 and 7 and Dec. 13 and 14.

“We coordinate our late hours with the Kriskindlmarkt so people can visit them as well and make more of an outing of it,” Roll said. “The fun part is going to be seeing visitors’ reactions.”

Evans Print & Media Group

1302 River Rd.
P.O. Box 252

Sparta, WI 54656-0252

Office Number: (608) 269-3186
Fax Number: (608) 269-6876
Email: 
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