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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Victorian stroll at Plant Museum conjures Christmases past

TAMPA - The splendor and grace of the Victorian Age bubbled up amid the ornate Christmas decorations at the Henry B. Plant Museum on the campus of the University of Tampa during the weekend. This is the 31st season for the Victorian Christmas Stroll. Sunday morning, people meandered up and down the darkened hallway, peering into rooms with elaborate displays of Christmas decorations. The Stroll is the museum's main fundraiser, and each year as many as 15,000 people take the tour, said museum Executive Director Cynthia Gandee. Fourteen rooms display Christmas themes, and there's even an eerie Dickens "A Christmas Carol" exhibit on the dimly lit stairwell. Displays include antique toys dating from the 1890s to 1930s, such as intricate dolls and dollhouses, wind-up toys and board games.
Uniquely adorned Christmas trees are featured in every room, including one with oranges and sea shells and another with Rough Rider artifacts. A couple of rooms are filled with origami decorations—  hundreds of them — all folded by Tampa resident Mikio Kato, Gandee said. "It has just brought this exhibit to life," she said. The room that was once the Tampa Bay Hotel's "gentleman's sitting room" featured a tree decorated with period hats and bow ties lent by local collectors. The Stroll began Saturday and is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Dec. 23 in the university's Plant Hall, the minaret-topped brick building on West Kennedy Boulevard, just west of the Hillsborough River. Museum curator Susan Carter said the Stroll is a hit. "We think it is Tampa's most popular event," she said. "We are so fortunate to have this building, which has survived all these years." Patrons are served complimentary spiced cider and cookies at the end of each tour, and carolers sing each evening. Admission is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and $7 for youth age 4 to 18. Debra and Brian Storm of Columbus, Ohio, were in Tampa over the weekend and decided to take the Stroll on Sunday. They have been to Tampa before and noticed the minarets, but had never visited the old brick hotel with Cuban mahogany doors and trim. "It's a unique design," Brian Storm said. "I love it," his wife chimed in.

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