Preparing for holidays

Published 9:00 am Sunday, November 15, 2015

Art Is… by Bev Jackson Cotter

Even though this beautiful, warm fall weather is beckoning us to enjoy the outdoors, our Art Center volunteers are working full-speed ahead to prepare for our Christmas events.

The biggy, of course, is Winter Wonderland, which will be from Nov. 28 through Dec. 23 at Northbridge Mall. This year the event will kick off with An Evening of Dazzle, with holiday music, hors d’oeuvres, a wine tasting and door prizes. Tickets are $20 and are available at the Albert Lea Art Center, Hy-Vee, Marketplace Foods, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce and Addie’s Floral and Gifts. Following that special evening, the tree display will be free to all visitors.

Bev Jackson Cotter

Bev Jackson Cotter

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This annual Christmas tree extravaganza started almost 30 years ago. Its purpose was and is to incorporate area organizations and Christmas decorating enthusiasts into the Art Center programming with a theme that everyone can relate to. Over the years, the tree decorations have ranged from large, elegant and glistening to tiny and simple, and have covered many, many different subjects. Each year we can plan on new and unusual designs. It’s fun watching the exhibition develop.

In the mid-1980s, we used to surround the trees with white, foam peanuts. The “snow” created a fairyland that was enchanting. However, after the event was over, the snow didn’t  melt. It had to be shoveled, scoop by sticky scoop, into garbage bags and then stored for the following year. Volunteer enthusiasm wears thin after spending hours unsticking those “electrified” peanuts from carpet, shoes and shovels.

Consequently, today we are satisfied with beautiful and themed Christmas tree skirts, and our focus is totally on the decorations. We do hope you come out and enjoy.

Something new this year is the Christmas on Clark exhibit that will be at the Art Center, 226 W. Clark St. in Albert Lea. Our galleries will be filled with items available for Christmas shopping, unique items that are one of a kind and not available anywhere else. It’s the opportunity for you to purchase something special for that someone special or maybe something special for yourself. How often do you do that? This show will be open during regular hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, from Nov. 24 through Dec. 23; and from 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 during the downtown Holiday Bazaar.

Also, the Art Center’s store, Art on Broadway, is offering a new and unusual item this season: coloring books for adults are available. This fun hobby offers a creative way to satisfy your art interests and people also find it to be a soothing pastime.

The Dorothy Godtland lecture on Dec. 16 is titled “Norwegian Christmas.” Watch for more information on this fun evening.

All of this Christmas chatter reminds me of how different the holidays were when I was growing up in Albert Lea. During the 1940s and ’50s, before the malls were built on the edges of town, Broadway was alive with decorations and lights and music. On the last few days before Christmas the stores were open until 9 in the evening and shoppers scurried from place to place carrying packages, checking lists and greeting friends. Now, it all reads like a Courier & Ives painting or an old Bing Crosby movie.

It was a time of American Gas Co. Christmas parties for the children of employees, with a Laurel and Hardy movie, a visit from Santa and a little box of candy for each kid; and of an evening spent with my friends riding up and down Broadway in the back of the Arneson Hardware pick-up truck, singing carols to all who would listen and wave to us; and Christmas programs at church with the little girls dressed in their Sunday best and little boys in suits and bowties, all singing and waving to Grandpa and Grandma.

There was family time — of Mom reading “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” to me and the serial story that was printed in the Albert Lea Tribune every evening for a week or two before Christmas; her delicious, made-from-scratch soup with homemade noodles and real farmyard chicken, served to our entire family gathered together on Christmas Eve; and children impatient with the women doing dishes and calling, “Is it time to open our presents yet?”

Oh, those memories. I hope that when the holiday season arrives you enjoy all of the Christmas events that are happening in our community, and that your own traditions and memories bring you joy.


Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center, 226 W. Clark St. in Albert Lea.