The dapper mole from "The Wind in the Willows," in the window of Doug Flanders & Associates' 50th and France storefront, may look familiar to Minnesotans of a certain age. As might the lifelike figurines of Snow White and "Nutcracker's" Prince of the Dolls.
That's because they're relics of Dayton's annual holiday show – a themed display of animatronic figures in elaborate sets, which brought folklore and fairy tales to life at the downtown Minneapolis store.
Since the 1960s, scenes from "Peter Pan," "the Wizard of Oz," or "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" attracted roughly a half-million visitors each year and became a family tradition for generations.
But when Macy's closed the downtown store in 2017, the figures and all their trimmings – clothing, wigs, candy canes – scattered. Some ended up with the Minnesota Historical Society; others at Duluth's Bentleyville Tour of Lights; a number went to private collectors.
Hennepin Theatre Trust, the nonprofit owner of three downtown Minneapolis theaters, has 34 of the figures it plans to display. It's showing five of them at Flanders' gallery (5025 France Ave. S.) through Jan. 12, 2023, to kick off a fundraising campaign to refurbish the entire collection. (To give, contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
Flanders, who grew up strolling downtown Minneapolis' holiday window displays and, later, visiting Santa and the vignettes on Dayton's 8th floor, hopes to recreate a bit of the experience at 50th and France.
As more figures are restored, he'd like to see them displayed in the neighboring storefronts, too. "It could become another Nicollet Avenue stroll during the holidays," he said.