TAMPA – The 19th century Christmas celebration, with antiques, glittering ornaments and toys of long ago, is captured at the 32nd annual Victorian Christmas Stroll.
The stroll, which opened Sunday at the Henry B. Plant Museum, features 14 rooms filled with Christmas trees decorated with peacock feathers, red, white and blue lights for the Spanish-American War, delicate lacey ornaments and more.
Santa is on a staircase, carrying a bag of toys, and stockings are hung with care in this fundraiser, sponsored by the museum in cooperation with the Plant Museum Society.
Annlynn Byrd and Ann Crowder, members of the society, were admiring a giant tree at the end of the Grand Hallway during a recent preview party.
“We’ve decorated this for 30 years and this is the prettiest it has ever been,” Byrd said.
A highlight of the stroll is a display of toys from more than 100 years – comparing yesterday’s treasures with today’s modern designs.
“Toys: Then and Now,” features tin soldiers and super hero figurines, board games, old-fashioned hoops, stuffed bears, Lincoln Logs and Lego sets, Raggedy Ann dolls, View Masters and more.
They are on loan from about 20 collectors in the community, said Sally Shifke, museum relations coordinator.
“Generally we decide what we want to do and put the word out in the newsletter and through our volunteers,” Shifke said. “If we can’t find it, it doesn’t happen.”
She said one of the biggest difference is that toys used to be all wood or metal; now most are plastic.
For the stroll, complimentary spiced cider and cookies will be served on the veranda every day, and each evening carolers will perform.
As part of the event , “Where’s Henry?,” a game for children, is planned. They can locate an image of Henry Plant in each room and win a prize.
In addition, the Victorian Christmas Stroll, Bells of Christmas will presented at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Grand Salon of Plant Hall (adjacent to the Museum). It will feature music by the Clearwater Christian Bell Choir from Clearwater Christian College.