A winter wonderland at Ruben's Department Store. Photo courtesy Katie McKitterick
A winter wonderland at Ruben's Department Store. Photo courtesy Katie McKitterick

Window displays hold glimpses of Christmas magic

Christmas came early for Caren “Ooollee” Bricker, and she’s sharing her gift with those who pass by her shop on Broad Street – a vintage animated Santa.

“He’s just beautiful. The day he was delivered I was 8 years old again,” said Bricker, the owner of Vintage Ooollee, of the 5-foot-5-inch-tall Harold Gale waving St. Nick.

Vintage Ooollee is one of about 30 downtown Augusta businesses participating in the Making Spirits Bright Downtown Decorations Crawl, sponsored by the Downtown Development Authority of Augusta and Augusta & Co.           

Bricker started collecting Santa Claus figures when she was in her 20s. She said the newest addition to her collection has been something she’s had her eye on for many years.

Gale Santas are collectibles.ga

Harold and Viola Gale started their Santa-making business in their Kansas City home in the 1940s, according to an article at the Kansas City Public Library website. The company made Santas for four decades. Bricker’s happy memories of the Gale Santas came from growing up in Augusta and visiting Fat Man’s Forest at Christmas where the moving Santas were on display.

 “Fat Man’s was the epitome of Christmas in Augusta,” she said.

Her Santa is in pristine condition, she said, and she wants to keep it that way. She only puts it in the window on Friday and Saturday nights to keep it out of the sun’s damaging rays.

Decoration Crawl new holiday tradition

This is the fourth year that the two organizations have joined to sponsor the crawl.

“There really isn’t a central place (in Richmond County) to find holiday lights,” said Sarah Childers, community engagement manager with Destination Augusta/Augusta & Co. One of the goals of the crawl is to draw people downtown where they can view lights from inside their vehicles or make it more of an experience by walking around and enjoying the lights as they shop, eat or take in a show.

MORE: Family of disabled veteran receives holiday wish for Christmas lights

A team of community judges evaluated the lights’ displays on Dec. 2 and bestowed honors such as most whimsical to Tiffinie Bleu Bridal, most original use of lights to Ruben’s Department Store, funniest to Wier/Stewart and best theme to Sharifa’s Hookah Lounge. Honorable mentions went to Craft + Vine and Alter’d Salon and Spa.

Brandy Jones, the owner of Tiffinie Bleu Bridal, didn’t even know there was a window contest when she decorated her windows last year. But it was the windows at the 1251 Broad St. location that sold her on the space.

A winter wonderland with a bridal theme was the look Brandy Jones of Tiffinie Bleu Bridal wanted. Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

“I love window displays,” she said. “When I’m in New York City or any other big city, I love to look at them.”

Her theme features a winter wonderland of snow-covered trees, lighted snowflakes and frosted windows with the white gowns taking center stage.

Jones said even though the judging is complete, she’s still adding details to the windows and is already thinking ahead for next year.

A few blocks down at Ruben’s Department Store, Katie McKettrick fashioned her own holiday scene.

“It has a white Christmas theme,” she said.

Families walk through a winter wonderland in the center window as McKettrick has created the illusion of falling snow.

From magical to dark humor

The vibe at Wier/Stewart is different from most of the other windows. It’s more irreverent and appeals to a darker sense of humor.

Kristine Yonke said the window wasn’t one person’s idea but was a true collaboration.

“Back in October, we started kicking around the idea,” said Yonke, the agency’s traffic manager.

It started off as a joke, sort of – Santa as a hunter and well, a few of his reindeer won’t be pulling the sleigh this year because they are mounted on the wall.

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The display has many layers to it along with details — such as the shotgun shell Christmas lights around the deer heads — that people might miss if they only take a glance at the window. Also, the team effort came into play as many members brought in different props to make it come together.

Wier/Stewart’s window display appeals to those with a darker sense or humor. Photo courtesy Leonard Zimmerman.

This is the third year Wier/Stewart has won something for the window designs, Yonke said.

Last year. the display included a recreation of Kevin’s party scene from the movie, Home Alone. The set-up even had a figure attached to an oscillating fan to make it look like it was dancing. The special effect worked the first night, but sadly that was the only time it worked, she said.

Augusta & Co. has created a “Making Spirits Bright Downtown Decorations Crawl” map with location listings Also, people can vote on their favorite at the site. The people’s choice award winner will be announced by Jan. 4, 2023.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Subscribe to the Augusta Good News newsletter here.

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One response to “Window displays hold glimpses of Christmas magic”

  1. Robyn Wittenberg Dudley says:

    loving the window displays, especially the artistic talents at Rubens. This eclectic store has been around since 1898 and is a step back in Time and still a real gem to downtown Augusta.