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Kansas City Christmas

December 20, 2005

Whew! Somewhere between school sucking up my time and secretive holiday knitting I haven’t been posting much lately. But now I’m home with my family in Kansas City, lounging, eating, and getting ready for Christmas. There’s still a good deal of holiday knitting happening, but you’re not going to see any of it here for a few more days. Instead, I’m going to try to share some Kansas City pictures.

Kansas City does Christmas better than anyone else. And when I’m visiting home I like to fit in at least a little bit of this area’s Christmas charm. This afternoon Christer and I needed to pick up presents for our nephews, and instead of stopping by Target, we opted to go “see the Christmas” downtown at Crown Center. Crown Center had the country’s first department store, Hall’s, and became the first mall. And despite starting a trend that defines American cookie-cutter trends, Crown Center manages to keep some originality. You’ll find regular mall shops there, but also some fun local stores, two live theater stages, a hotel, and all sorts of self-promotion for Hallmark (which we’ll get to later), including the Crayola Café and the Crayola Store:

The store is full of mini-exhibits about colors and crayon making. There were some toddlers in the store giggling like crazy watching colored lights on the floor, a group of tweens were fascinated by a spinning optical illusion, and parents were all over the place taking pictures of their kids in front of oversized crayon boxes.

If commercialism is going to be a part of Christmas, then you better at least make it fun, right?

Crown Center has always gone all out with the Christmas decorations. Christer and I didn’t go to see this year’s Santa setup, but in the main hall they did have a display of some favorite decorations of Christmas past:

The laughing Santa in the background has been slapping his knee and ho-ho-ho-ing for about 100 years. But my favorite of the old decorations is this family of snowmen. With the sound of a huge vacuum they inflate, and then, after a few seconds the vacuum turns off and they melt into little puddles. When I was little they lined the pathway to Santa (the real Santa, not the mechanical laughing one), and I remember being fascinated and somewhat frightened by them. Something about the melting made me sad.

Hallmark Cards is based in Kansas City, and their most creative bit of outreach in the neighborhood is Kaleidoscope (Oh! Check out their website for kids craft links and more pictures!). I don’t think I’ve ever run into anything quite like it. Kids are dropped off for sessions where they get to explore all sorts of cool, um, stuff. I can’t think of another word that encompasses it all. It isn’t quite like a children’s museum, it’s more like entering another world. When I was little there was a shadow room, and a huge pin table, and a wall of handprints of famous people (okay, famous to kids—like Captain Kangaroo and Big Bird). And the highlight, especially to a crafty little kid like me, was the time spent in the art room. About a dozen tables set up with a different little craft project at each one. Most of the projects involved Hallmark’s scrap materials. After dropping off the kids, parents can watch some of the action through windows along the sides. I took this picture through one of those windows today, when between sessions when there were no kids at play.

It’s hard to tell in the picture, but that is an art table that the bug is sitting on top of. The little red bumps near the bottom of the picture are the table, and if you look close you can see blue papers and some markers in pockets in the table. It’s a bit blurry, but you can see how a kid would feel immersed in this space.

This post is getting long, so I’ll save the rest of today’s excursion for tomorrow…

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