Santa Claus is coming to…

The Taber Museum to hold annual holiday exhibit

Belsnickels on display at the Taber Museum in Wiliamsport. Belsnickel is a crotchety, fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer figure in the folklore of the Palatinate region of southwestern Germany. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Santa Claus is coming to town … with a stop at the Taber Museum. A slew of Santas will be on display during this year’s holiday exhibit at the Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society, 858 W. Fourth St.

The exhibit, featuring many different Santa Claus figurines, toys and decorations in a variety of styles, sizes and colors, will run from Dec. 6 through Jan. 7 and be on display in the Community Room of the museum.

Every year, the holiday exhibit features items loaned by community members and once again, the museum is encouraging local individuals to bring in their Santas to be a part of the display.

“It really will be a nice variety (of Santas) — some traditional and some non-traditional. It’s amazing what people have in their collection,” said Gary Parks, museum director. “The hard part is that people want them on display at their own home at Christmas.”

Parks and the museum staff are very grateful to the community members who loan their items to the exhibit each year. Yes, the Santas loaned to the museum won’t be able to be on display in the owners’ own homes, but what could be better than the items that you treasure being viewed and enjoyed by so many more people in the community over the holidays?

A handmade Santa pillow from an Edward Peck design from 1886 on display at the Taber Museum in Williamsport. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Planning for the holiday exhibit happens differently each year. Past years’ exhibits have included dolls and dollhouses, teddy bears, favorite toys, snowflakes and trains.

“I was thinking about the theme for this year and it suddenly popped into my head — Santa Claus! He’s a natural! I think every household has at least one Santa,” Parks said.

There are close to 50 Santas on loan so far for the exhibit, but Parks would like to see more than 100 fill the Community Room. There are plush, mohair, cloth, vinyl and papier mache Santas. At least 10 Santas are vintage — from 1910, the 20s, 30s, 50s and even one from 1886 and, of course, some more modern Santas.

Sally Hilsher, of Hilsher Graphics, has loaned four Santas to the exhibit; Scot Sagar, the museum’s curator of collections, loaned his Lego Santa; and Kay Stamm, of Mifflinburg, loaned some of her reproduction Bellsnickles that she made, based on authentic designs from 1910. Some of the Bellsnickles have a hollow cavity, which would be filled with candy on Christmas morning.

Parks even brought in several Santas himself to join the display, including a wooden, life-sized Santa, who’s arms and legs move, made in 1953 by his father, Claude Parks. “We used to put it out in the front yard, until we realized how ‘dopey’ he looked,” Parks said about the Santa his father made. He said the Santa was put away in a basement for about 30 years until he asked his mother if he could have him. Parks then decided to bring the Santa out of storage and display him in his living room — year-round.

Santas on display on at the Taber Museum in Williamsport. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

The museum also has a recent addition to their collection, which will be featured in the exhibit — a mechanized Santa that was on display in the former L. L. Sterns & Sons Department Store that bows and waves.

Parks has high hopes that the Santa exhibit will be as popular as the teddy bear exhibit a few years ago, which brought 188 teddy bears from the community to the Taber for the holidays.

Voting for the favorite item in the exhibit will take place again this year by museum-goers. As guests peruse the holiday exhibit, they will have the chance to vote for their three favorite Santas. The most popular Santas will be announced in a press release that will be published in the museum’s newsletter, as well as the Sun-Gazette. All contributors to the exhibit also will be listed in the release.

Anyone interested in contributing a Santa to the exhibit can bring them to the museum any time following the Thanksgiving holiday during regular museum hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays.

Anyone loaning a Santa to the exhibit will fill out a loan form and their Santa will be carefully taken care of by museum staff for the duration of the exhibit. All items on loan at the museum will be on display inside cases and larger items will be securely roped off to ensure the items are secure, safe and untouched.

A Santa from a display in the L.L. Stearns department store sits in the Taber Museum. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Owners of loaned Santas also may provide their name to display with their item, as well as a story associated with the Santa, but it is not required.

Those interested in loaning their Santa Claus to be displayed in this year’s Taber holiday exhibit can contact Parks at 570-326-3326 or email

For more information about the museum, visit