Whatcom Museum decks the halls for Christmas

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 14, 2013 

Museums in Whatcom and Skagit counties are getting in the holiday spirit soon with seasonal displays and activities that draw on the nostalgia of Christmases past.

Whatcom Museum in Bellingham is lighting the exterior of its Old City Hall galleries with a simplicity reminiscent of the late 1950s or 1960s, inspired by an archival photograph that shows the iconic Prospect Street building aglow with holiday cheer. Festivities including music are scheduled from 3-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14.

A few weeks later, the Skagit County Historical Museum in La Conner is building on the success of recent holiday displays by decorating one of its galleries with Christmas ornaments and seasonal displays, including antique toys that are being moved from storage just for the occasion.

In Bellingham, opening festivities for the Deck the Halls exhibit start at 3 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. Lighting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. There's free admission to the Old City Hall galleries from 5-7 p.m. so visitors can see the new exhibit.

"It's just a beautiful old building that lends itself to being decorated," said Cherie Walker, second vice president of the Whatcom Museum board.

Walker said visitors will see 20 trimmed Christmas trees displayed - two of which are being auctioned as a museum fundraiser.

"They're a variety of themes and a variety of sizes," Walker said. "We also have two fabulous dollhouses that a (Museum) Guild member has made," including a 7-foot colonial style and a smaller log cabin.

There's also a "pop-up" museum store in the Old City Hall where visitors can buy Christmas gifts.

At various times through Thanksgiving weekend, there are crafts and seasonal activities for children - including visits and pictures with Santa Claus, storytelling and sing-alongs. Events are scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. Nov.14-17; noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 21-24 and noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 29-30.

Santa is scheduled from 1-5 p.m. Nov. 16-17 and 1-5 p.m. Nov. 22-24. Parents are encouraged to bring a camera.

Walker said the museum is offering a special $20 per family admission price during Deck the Halls events, which also allows access to the Lightcatcher galleries on Flora Street, where some special events for youngsters are planned in the Family Interactive Gallery. Otherwise, admission is free for museum members, $10 for adults, $8 for students, and $4.50 for children under 5. Thursday admission is $5 for everyone (members free).

For more information about the Deck the Halls exhibit and other events, go online to whatcommuseum.org or call 360-778-8930.

SKAGIT CHRISTMAS

In La Conner, the Skagit County Historical Museum is bringing its "Skagit Christmas" exhibit back for a second year, said Jo Wolfe, the museum's fundraising and publicity coordinator.

"(Visitors) were just so amazed seeing the decorations and the photos of Old Skagit with lots of snow," Wolfe said.

Decorations and exhibits will be displayed from Friday, Nov. 29, to Tuesday, Dec. 31, in the museum's North Wing galleries, along with the life-size dioramas depicting Skagit County in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"This year we're going to have more toys," Wolfe said. "We have a doll collection we'll be using; we have a lot of other wonderful toys that don't get seen because we don't have the space."

In addition, the museum is offering its East Wing galleries - which feature a sweeping view of the Skagit Valley and the North Cascades - to rent for Christmas parties and private seasonal events, she said. Another first this year is a holiday bazaar, featuring the work of local artisans. The Hilltop Holiday Craft Sale is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1. Admission to the museum is free during the craft fair.

"We have everything from fused glass to aprons, soaps and lotions for sale," Wolfe said.

There's also Christmas is for Kids! - a special day devoted to children's crafts and activities - from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.

"We'll have hands-on crafts that they can make and take with them," Wolfe said.

The Skagit County Historical Museum is at 501 S. Fourth St. in La Conner. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and children 6-12. Museum members and children 5 and younger are admitted free. There's also a special family rate of $10 for two adults and two children. For more information about the museum, go online to skagitcounty.net/museum or call 360-466-3365.

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Robert Mittendorf is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Suggest your ideas for local family-friendly events, hikes or day trips at 360-756-2805 or at robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com.

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