ALBANY -- Want to catch a glimpse of Santa before his big trip next weekend? The Thronateeska Heritage Center's a great vantage point. It has more than 3,500 different Santas on display.
Shelf after shelf is lined with the image of Santa on everything from figurines to oven mitts. Brief informational posts highlight certain areas to give background on the collection.
Archive and collection manager Cathy Flohre spearheads the exhibit this year and she and fellow Thronateeska employees Allison Young, Matt Shemwell and Nicholas Carter have created an extensive display.
"This is Don Fisher's (Santa) collection and there are well over 3,000 Santas," Flohre said. "It was originally on display at Bobs Candies, but has been at the Thronateeska for the past five years."
Flohre says that Bobs Candies made a generous donation to the exhibit, made up of Bobs memorabilia including an antique car painted with the company's logo.
"It just isn't Christmas without candy canes," she said.
Flohre also explained that the holiday collection has something for everyone because it has "delved into the history of many winter holidays. It's not just about Christian (traditions). It also explores what other people believe."
Because of their desire to represent diversity, Flohre, Young, Shemwell and Carter worked to research holiday traditions such as Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, the Yule log and the sending of Christmas cards.
The Santas, however, are the centerpiece.
They are predominantly the typical red-suited, round-bellied, jovial representations, but Flohre and her team also included a display of nontraditional Santas from around the world in a variety of colors because, as Flohre says, "Santa wasn't always in red."
One portion of the exhibit includes folk art representations of Santa Claus, crafted from various materials, while yet another display contains kitchen items decorated with Santa Claus and his reindeer.
Flohre says that this is one of the most extensive portions of the exhibit because there is "every possible kitchen thing with Santa on it."
Still another exhibit addresses the use of Santa as a marketing tool and displays a sampling of ad campaigns from Christmases past. Flohre says it took the staff roughly a week to compile its research and assemble the exhibit.
The Thronateeska Heritage Center is also holding a special "Season of Light" holiday exhibit at the planetarium.
The Flint RiverQuarium is working with the Thronateeska Heritage Center this holiday season to encourage visitation of both institutions by offering a joint admission ticket for December 20-22.
The cost for this reduced-price ticket will be $8.
Admission to the Thronateeska Heritage Center History and Science Museums is free to the public, but admission to the planetarium is $3.50, plus applicable taxes. Regular adult admission to the RiverQuarium is $9.
The Thronateeska Heritage Center is extending its operating hours this week of Christmas, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday. The RiverQuarium will be under normal operating hours.
For more information contact the RiverQuarium at (229) 639-2650 or toll free at 877-GOFLINT or the Thronateeska Heritage Center at (229) 432-6955. Tickets can be purchased at either location.