EDITOR'S NOTE: The original version of this story included incorrect information about the donation of the Santa's Workshop display, and the ownership of the former Killian's Department store. The information was corrected at 1:20 p.m. on Dec. 4, 2013.
A piece of Cedar Rapids’ Christmas past has been given new life in the Czech Village this holiday season.
An animatronic Santa’s Workshop that was displayed for over 20 years at Killians Department Store in downtown Cedar Rapids is being showcased again this year in the window of the Hurych Building, 39 16th Ave. SW.
The display, which features eight elves busy creating toys, along with Santa and Mrs. Claus, was donated to the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library this summer by Sue Zazza Hutchcroft in honor of her brother Alan Zazza, her parents Mildred and Jack Zazza and her grandparents Milo and Vendelene Simanek.
The Zazza family bought the display when Killian's department store closed in 1982, and the elves went into storage. The Zazza family renovated them and unveiled them again in 1991 in the Sheraton Hotel, which later became the Clarion and was sold in 2007. The Zazza family kept Santa’s Workshop after the sale, though it hasn’t been available for public viewing for several years.
Czech & Slovak Museum facilities director Grant Smith said the museum has been working to fully restore the display since this summer. He wasn’t sure of the elves’ age, but said any moving parts that break have had to be fabricated from scratch, as replacements couldn’t be found.
Two more elves need additional work before they are added to the display.
“It’s been a labor of love,” Smith said. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into this.”
The museum is asking for the public’s help keeping the display authentic. Anyone who remembers the original Killians Christmas display or who has photos and can offer input on what the original Santa’s Workshop looked like can call the museum at (319) 362-8500.
Smith said he wasn’t sure if the display would return to the Hurych building again next year, but said the museum hopes to keep Santa’s Workshop displayed somewhere in the Czech Village each Christmas season.“We really want them on display so people can enjoy them and remember,” he said.