Twenty-three life sized Santas, representing countries and regions from around the world, are basking in the ambience of a newly created winter wonderland of lighted artificial fir trees and festive holiday décor. The display, known as “Santas Around the World,” can be viewed at 1223 Main Street in downtown Great Bend.
“I’m so impressed with the display; it’s absolutely beautiful,” said Loretta Miller, Great Bend artist and creator of the multi-cultural Santas, as she viewed them in their new surroundings last week. “Seeing them like this, it’s just what I envisioned they would be with all the lights and the magic. You just walk in here and the Santas look amazing in their new environment. Everything looks so warm and inviting. I am so happy with the work that has been done to showecase them.”
The public can visit the international Santa display from 4-6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 1-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. People can schedule appointments outside of those hours by calling Rosewood Roots & Wings Foundation Office at 620-603-6502. The Santa exhibit will be on display until Dec. 21.
There is a $2 charge per person to visit the exhibit, with children 8 and younger being admitted free, if accompanied by an adult. During regular hours, admission proceeds go to Great Bend’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Admission proceeds collected by appointment go to the Rosewood Roots & Wings Foundation.
Efforts to create a multi-cultural Santa display began when the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau contacted Miller to sculpt the first Santa, approximately 15 years ago. Following that inaugural success, she constructed several more pieces each year, until there were 23 Santas in the collection. Although she continues to make smaller Santas today, Miller hasn’t created a life-sized Santa for about a decade.
During and since there creation, the Santas have gained state and national recognition. Arts & Entertainment Network even featured Miller’s Santas in a 2003 holiday special, titled “Ultimate HolidayTown USA.”
The desire to create a collection of life-sized international Santas was twofold, said Cris Collier, director of the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city already had “Trail of Lights” as an evening holiday attraction, but needed a daytime
activity to attract visitors. Another goal was for the Santas to help draw retail traffic to downtown stores, she added.
Originally, the Santas appeared in downtown retail stores of Great Bend. After a few years, however, they were moved as a group to the CPI Qualified Plan Consultants Annex, then to a building on Lakin and Kansas Streets. During that time, the Santas were donated to the Rosewood Roots & Wings Foundation. They were moved to their current home, when Rosewood opened its Wine Cellar nearly two years ago. Before this holiday season, the current location received the Christmas make-over that now accentuates the Santa display.
“The Santas are exquisite pieces, created by a wonderfully gifted artist,” said Tammy Hammond, executive director of Rosewood Services. “They belong in a quality environment, which we believe we have achieved for them this year. I am honored that Loretta approves of our effort. I hope people will take the time to see the Santas in their new and festive surroundings.
Santas On Display: Africa (Father Christmas), America (Santa Claus), Australia (Aussie Santa), Brazil (Vovo Indo), Chine (Dun Che Lao Ren), England (Father Christmas), France (Pere Noel), Germany (St. Nicholas), Iceland (Jola Sveinar), Italy (La Befana), Koea (Sana Haraboji), Latin America (Viejo Pascero), Lapland Finmark (Joulupukki), Lithuania (Kaledu Senelis), Middle East (Holy Man), Mangolia (Tsai Sen Yeh), Poland (Star Man), Netherlands (Black Pete), Norway (Julesvenn), Russia (Godfather Frost), Scotland (Abbot of Unreason), Switzerland (Samichlaus), United States (Santa Claus)