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Holiday exhibit gets modern look

Children’s Wonderland celebrates its 50th birthday


Sarah Snead looks over characters she and other volunteers worked to refurbish for the Children’s Wonderland exhibit at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania. The holiday exhibit turns 50.

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Home for the holidays, the modern-day version, helps set the theme — and the scenes — for a longtime, Toledo-area Christmas tradition.

Four women, volunteers for Tam-O-Shanter, redesigned the displays for Children’s Wonderland in time for its Golden Anniversary. The walk-along exhibits, opening Friday at Tam-O-Shanter, 7060 Sylvania Ave., were originally part of the Lucas County Recreation Center Exhibition Hall in Maumee, which opened in 1963.

In the display’s early days, visitors viewed figurines and scenes in five Victorian-era homes, where the figures were stringing popcorn on a tree or playing the harp. The volunteers have re-created modern scenes inside the houses.

“We tried to keep it similar to what we thought it looked like today,” volunteer Kim Sarmento said. “Now we have a Hanukkah room, which uses curtains seen in a home today, stylishly draped to the side, and the room has textured, blue wallpaper.

They replaced a musty, bluish carpet in the Gingerbread House with a vinyl floor and updated its floral wallpaper with a textured look.

“We wanted people to identify with the scenes,” said volunteer Sarah Snead. An art teacher at Southview High School, she enlisted some students to assist.

The volunteers spent almost two years refreshing more than 120 characters, many of which were built from plaster. Some still awaiting repair, stored in Tam-O-Shanter, show the age of 50 years. Figurines have peeling faces and often are missing an arm or a leg, with clothing in tatters.

Before this, the creative crafters usually spent one weekday evening working on home projects together. That changed when Mrs. Snead received a call from Tam-O-Shanter, just days after the women said they needed a new craft to “give back to the community.”

In 2010 the Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District assumed ownership of the display for $1. The exhibit was too costly for Lucas County to keep up during the 2008 recession.

Kathy LaVoy, a recreation district employee who heads the Children’s Wonderland Committee, said it has spent about $20,000 in materials and products to refurbish the displays and bring the characters back to their original splendor.

“They were in rough shape. ... When the exhibit was put away, it was with the intention that it may never come back out,” Ms. LaVoy said.

She said the updated look will attract children ages 3 to 11, the target audience. “Now they will relate more. ... It will hold the children’s interest.”

She noted that more moving parts have been added.

The group spent four or five days a week thinking about ways to repair the figures and rebuilding houses and other props.

“We all learned how to use saws and shop tools, and we still have all 10 digits,” volunteer Brenda Lochbihler joked. The fourth volunteer was Marsha Hawley

More than 30 displays will be featured at Children’s Wonderland, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 13 to Dec. 28, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 24. It will be closed Christmas Day. Admission is adults $5, children $3, and seniors $2. A pass is for the Kids Zone is $5. For more information visit

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