Preservation society cracks into growing exhibit

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Shelly Birkelo
Saturday, December 7, 2013

MILTON—Expanding the exhibit wasn't a hard nut to crack.

The Nutcracker Exhibit at Main Hall, 513 College, St., has more than quadrupled in size in just three years.

 “There's a lot more nutcrackers than in the previous two years,” said Judy Scheehle, curator/administrator of Milton College Preservation Society that is hosting the third annual exhibit that opened Saturday and continues today.

The first year featured 65 pieces of one person's collection.

The second year the public was invited to bring in pieces from their collections. Lauren Fish, 11, Milton brought in 80 nutcrackers while a couple other people added theirs to total 150 in the 2012 exhibit.

“This year we will have a total of close to 300 nutcrackers,” including 115 from Fish, Scheehle said.

“I've just always like 'em and how they look,” said the fifth grader at Northside Intermediate School, Milton.

Fish also wants to share her love of nutcrackers with others.

“I like the unique ones,” she said of the angel nutcracker that resembles her that was a gift from her grandmother Nancy Grant plus the music box nutcrackers.

Scheehle initially was surprised at how popular the nutcrackers are.

“Not only do people enjoy collecting them they love looking at them,” too, she said.

Preservation Society member and 1948 Milton College graduate Beverly Thorngate, of Whitewater, was among those enjoying the exhibit Saturday with her daughter Patricia Thorngate, Sun Prairie.

“I've always been interested in the nutcracker and saw the nutcracker ballet once. This just sounded like a fun thing to do on an afternoon. It's interesting somebody put together such a big exhibit,” Beverly said.

Most of the nutcrackers displayed are made of wood, but some are made of wax and others are ceramic, Scheehle said.

Although authentic German Christmas nutcrackers portray images of such authority figures as kings and soldiers, the local display features such music stars as Elvis, fictional characters such as Alice in Wonderland, characters from the Wizard of Oz, Scrooge plus Boy Scouts and contemporary soldiers.

Some of the figurines stand three feet tall. Most stand about 18 inches. One  6-foot tall nutcracker will greet people in the front entrance of Main Hall.

Although the Preservation Society likes to feature different attractions at Christmas, the nutcracker exhibit provides a different way to show off Main Hall, which is part of the Milton community.

“It's a way of drawing people in and showcasing the building. Plus it's fun,” Scheehle said.

Of all the pieces in the exhibit, Scheehle said should couldn't possibly pick just one as the most interesting.

“They're all just so different,” she said.

But she did showcase one nutcracker that has very, very long legs in a preservation society permanent display of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because the Milwaukee Bucks used to hold their basketball training camps on the former Milton College Campus, which is now home to Main Hall.

Scheehle easily picked her favorite nutcrackers—the beatniks, who represent the cool 1950s youth culture.

“They're holding up their hands and making the peace sign gesture, wearing a peace necklace and a headband plus have a guitar,'' she said.

“It's kind of magical and it just makes you smile,” Scheehle said of the display.

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