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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Plant Museum offers a stroll through Victorian Christmases

TAMPA — Erin Sforza pointed to a glass display inside the Henry B. Plant Museum’s “Toys Then and Now” exhibit asking her daughter, Aine, “Who is that?”

The toddler quickly responded: “Princess Sofia!”

Meanwhile, the girl’s great grandmother, Minnie Rudolph, giggled at the other end of the exhibit inside the Henry B. Plant Museum picking out Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls she once played with as a child.

That’s just a glimpse into the first day of the 32nd Annual Victorian Christmas Stroll inside the museum. The event, which runs through Dec. 23, celebrates images of 19th century Christmases dispersed amid historical items dating back hundreds of years.

There are 14 exhibits inside the museum’s bottom floor, including a display of toys from 1890 to today.

“(This reminds me of) how old I feel,” Rudolph said, laughing, admitting she’ll be 89 in three months. “Raggedy Ann and Andy. I know that from, gosh… and I had seven sisters so dolls were the big thing for us. And some of the games, like Pick up Sticks.”

Jason Sforza marveled at the moment his daughter, Aine, and his grandmother recognized those items.

Even his mother, Karen Sforza, saw a few games she played as a youth.

“What’s really neat is there’s stuff my grandmother remembers as a child and this Princess Sophia book right here, we just read this to our daughter a month ago,” said Jason Sforza, a former Tampa resident who now lives in New York with his wife and daughter. “The generations here, it’s incredible how it covered just about every generation here.”

Lauri Champlin, a self-proclaimed lover of all things Christmas, is a University of Tampa graduate. As a part-time student, she only took summer classes and she never experienced the Christmas Stroll — until Sunday.

She brought her son, Reef, 7, and his friend Dayshaun Roberts, 6, to indulge in more than just the holiday spirit.

“I think Victorian Christmases are so beautiful. I’m inspired by them,” Champlin said. “And I want them to experience it. I think it’s something they’ll remember. I wanted to bring them here because I think history is important and it’s exciting and I don’t think they get enough of it in school, so being able to experience it, being this close to it, brings it back to life.”

Joe and Judy Waskelis were also newbies to the museum’s Christmas Stroll. Previously, the couple brought an aunt to the museum, but that was not during the holidays.

Both were enthralled by the museum’s Christmas transformation.

“From the outside, when we parked and walked in, we saw the side of that tree in this hallway and it just grabbed our attention,” Joe Waskelis said. “It’s really exuberating.”

After a moment, Judy nudged her husband with her left shoulder and displayed a playful smile.

“With all the little Christmas things in here, we have to buy something,” she said. “So don’t forget.”

Victorian Christmas hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

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