"A Robot That Automatically Produces Fun" was the sales pitch for Giganta.
At 22.5 ft high and over two tons, the three-tiered Giganta must have dominated any playground the robot inhabited. This robotic answer to rocket slides was originally made by the Jamison company and was also branded as a Miracle Equipment Company product after Miracle merged with Jamison in 1970. Catalog photos show it would have originally had a circular antenna on top.
This one rules Dutch Branch Park in Benbrook, Texas, where I shot it late one night in a thunderstorm...with a metal tripod...while standing in a puddle.
John Wetton of Asia, King Crimson, U.K., and Uriah Heep has died. He'd been fighting cancer and according to the Asia Facebook page, he passed away early this morning.
That's three great prog rock bass player/vocalists gone in two years, since Chris Squire of Yes passed away in June of 2015 and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer died this past December. ELP's Keith Emerson also died in 2016, leaving Carl Palmer as the only survivor of that band.
Kringle's Christmas Land is a new attraction in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which features vintage store window displays showcased in Christmas scenes. The brainchild of Tulsa media professional Ben Sumner, it employs automations by the defunct David Hamberger Display Company, with a bit of Harold Gale Display Company thrown in.
Here's a little video I put together.
Such a call-back to the window displays of the 1950s and 60s is a rare and precious thing. Kringle's Christmas Land is housed in Tulsa's Promenade Mall, 4107 S Yale, and is open through December 31. See the Facebook page for details.
It's nice to see the press was represented.
Sumner said that most of the figures date from the 1950s to the 1990s. Older ones have more detail in the faces.
Santa and Mrs. Claus beckon from a window display in the mall.
One of these creatures was not part of the display.
Ace Jackalope had to join in the owl's vigilance.
Here's more of the rather extensive display of motorized Victorian villagers.
According to the Kansas Explorer Club, the tradition of the Lyons, KS, water tower bell goes all the way back to 1938 when courthouse custodian Oscar Laudick made a bell frame 40' in diameter to hang over the courthouse tower and topped it with a star.
This must have gone over very well, for in the early 1950s a new and larger version was built to go over the water tower. According to a representative of the Lyons water department, this year the tower turns on shortly after 5 p.m. and stays on all night.
Convenient tail lights from a passing car frame a huge Merry Christmas in cursive rope lights at 1618 West 56th.
This is my annual guide to Christmas lights of Hutchinson, Kansas. It's subjective, of course, but I think I've listed the major concentrations, theme neighborhoods and a few exceptional homes for your driving enjoyment. Every year I find something new, like Wiener Wonderland at 25th and Eastwood. Though some of the photos are from previous years, they accurately describe what's there now.
If you've got very little time in Hutchinson, the one Christmas site you have to see is the most unique: "Grandma's House," the lawn at 25 Countryside Drive. Grandma's House is densely populated with automations built by retired nuclear scientist Dale Hankins. Each mechanical grandchild is on its way to Hankins' house via a different mode of transportation. Dale built most of these when his wife was alive; she passed away a few years ago.
Here's a video I shot in 2013 as it snowed on the display. The display looks the same today, minus the roller coaster and sailboat. Dale, a retired nuclear scientist, adds new pieces most years to the amusement of his very real kids and grandkids. For background information see our posts from 2007 and 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Catty-cornered from Grandma's House you'll see Dale's daughter's fine display of lights. This year she has an elephant on a real riding mower. One wonders if a tradition is forming.
The "North of 30th Avenue" Tour
Using Grandma's House as a starting point, I've put together a mini-tour of the lights north of 30th, east of Monroe and west of Halstead.
The vintage red truck is at the NE corner of Carlton Road and Curtis Drive. Santa and a bear are at the wheel.
Going west to 30th and Monroe St. you'll also find this highly color saturated home at 3001 North Monroe. In addition to lots of LED lights, they've chosen to use their house as a canvas for colored floodlights and have "Glory to God" and "Peace on Earth" signs." There's also a manger scene that faces 30th Avenue.
Go north up Monroe to continue your tour.
As you pass Monterey Place on the west side of Monroe, you'll see that the Wesley Towers retirement complex down the street at 700 Monterey Place features stars facing four directions.
This is a time exposure, hence the tail lights.
New this year are green lasers. In previous years they've had a pole tree and the surrounding neighborhood used to have smaller pole trees
The First Church of the Nazarene, 4290 N Monroe, is not displaying the set of four singing Christmas trees that they used in the earlier part of this decade.
The northernmost attraction I am listing is Santa's Workshop at 6420 North Monroe, where a U-shaped driveway furnishes some lights. Here's a video I shot in 2014; it's pretty much the same this year.
Upon leaving the Santa's Workshop driveway, go back south on Monroe and turn east at 43rd, then take a slight detour south down Plum to 41st.
Wooden reindeer, Santa and sleigh traverse the yard at 501 East 41st Avenue. These flat and sometimes jointed wood shapes, finished with paint or decals, were a precursor to plastic blow mold decorations.
Now, go back north to 43rd and turn east if you want to continue my path.
Some houses in the twisty, curvy neighborhood known as Foothill Estates, have large wooden Christmas cards. This is north off 43rd, beginning with Pagoda and ending with Sequoia.
Go back to 43rd and head east.
Returning this year after an absence in 2015 are these lights on a barn and windmill to the south of 43rd, visible behind a house and through some trees. The address is 1703 East 43rd and the farm is between Lorraine and Panorama. This year they added lights on a house as well.
This concludes my loose tour of lights north of 30th Street between Monroe and Halstead. I'll list some neighborhoods now.
Hyde Park and the Luminaria
The recent snow showcases The NE corner of 19th St. and Adams in the Hyde Park area.
This resident at 201 West 20th displays a collection of blow mold Santas.
Hyde Park is the scene if Hutchinson's biggest Christmas event , the Hyde Park luminaria, during which 36 square blocks - east to west from Main to Monroe and north to south from 23rd to 18th - display luminaria sacks (candles in bags anchored with sand).
This year the luminaria is Friday, December 23rd. For more info and pictures see Hyde Park Luminaria in Hutchinson and The Hyde Park Luminaria, 2012.
There are usually free buggy rides.
Weather is seldom a factor. The luminaria began in 1983 and has occurred every year since, except for 2007 when it was cancelled due to the ice storm.
East 22nd Ave., AKA Friesen's Additions
The largest season-long area of Christmas lights is a half-mile square area of perimeter lights that covers most lawns from East 17th to 23rd Avenues and Meadowlark Lane to North Lorraine St. The tradition started a number of years ago on East 22nd Avenue and typically begins Thanksgiving weekend and lasts til New Years.
Within this area, part of East 20th Avenue displays blow mold candy canes.
Though most use white mini-lights, this home displays brilliantly adapted plastic one-gallon jugs. (another view)
A mid-century-ish sign in front of a house along Meadowlark Lane wishes us a Merry Christmas.
A residence at 455 Justice has had this great display for the past few years.
In fact, the block from Avenue G north for quite a few houses is a dense little Christmas oasis as seen in this home on the east side of Justice.
And here's another from that block.
Houston Whiteside Historic District
The Houston Whiteside Historical District has a number of decorated homes. This one, on the SW corner of at Plum Street and First Avenue, features a talking, singing automated Santa (a weather resistant version of a Gemmy Industries Santa). The district is roughly bordered by the BNSF railroad tracks on the North, Avenue B on the South, Elm Street to the West and Pershing Street to the East.
This house is across the street, at the NW corner of 1st and Plum.
610 East Sherman
718 East Sherman
421 East Avenue A
Southwest Bricktown is the new name for the neighborhood centering around Avenue A School. It is bordered by 2nd Avenue on the north, Main Street on the east, Avenue E on the south and Hendricks St. on the west. I believe this is 211 West Avenue B.
Returning for 2016 is this animated light frame train atop Anchor Away between Avenue A and Avenue B on South Adams.
College Grove is another newly named neighborhood. It spans from the south end of the Kansas State Fairgrounds to the north, to 11th St. to the south, Main St. to the west and a chunk of houses north of Hutchinson Community College to the east. Santa waits in the second floor of this home at 308 East 13th.
The Johnsons, 400 East 12th Ave., always have a display that mixes classic blow molds and wood stand-ups.
Trinity United Methodist Church, 1602 North Main Street, displays a life-size Nativity set that was passed on to it from the now-defunct Peques Department store, downtown.
A projection screen on a porch at 201 East 14th Ave shows a religious message. Set your radio to 89.7 FM.
The Larkland neighborhood spans from 30th St. on the north to 27th on the south and Main St. on the west and Plum St. to the east. This is 10 East 27th.
Mill Creek Crossing
Mill Creek Crossing, a housing development north of 17th Ave. and east of Hendricks has street lamps decorated with red lights.
Most mailboxes in the Wesbrook Addition, west of Hendricks and north of 17th Ave., bear lights of red and green. (another picture)
The toney Willowbrook area features two rows of three trees each with an impressive density of multicolored lights.
Sometimes the lights are about the architecture, as with 200 Buckskin Rd.
The recent snow enhanced the colorful lights at 3502 Thunderbird.
A graceful tree helps frame a nativity at 120 Kisiwa Parkway.
The Woodlands is a subdivision at the NE edge of Hutchinson, across 30th St. from Prairie Dune country club. Christmas lighting is generally characterized by white lights outlining the architecture of houses.
The sky over 2500 Hawthorn Lane is what you get when you shoot in an active snowstorm.
Prairie Hills is a development not far from Prairie Dunes Country Club on the NE corner of Hutchinson. Like other wealthier areas, Christmas lighting is generally characterized by white lights outlining the architecture of houses, but there's a spot of color here and there.
A frenetically flashing star graces 3409 Sandy Hollow.
A toyland menagerie gazes at motorists from 3119 Inverness.
Main Street (going north to south)
The Medicine Shop at 1401 North Main Street, one of my favorite bits of Hutchinson architecture, is outlined with red lights again this year. An unattributed magazine article on the wall inside states that this was Ted's Service, a Sinclair station, before becoming a pharmacy in 1970. The structure is Hutchinson's best example of mimetic architecture - that is, a building designed to mimic something else, in this case, a castle.
Harley's Bicycles at 629 North Main displays a vintage Santa as they have for at least the past few years. The Santa is one of several along Main street that were made by the Harold Gale Display Company.
Reger Rental at 615 North Main Street displays a motorized version (model 606) of a Harold Gale Santa.
The Cabinet Store at 521 North Main has another Harold Gale Santa.
Jillian's Italian Grill at 216 N Main Street, displays a Harold Gale model 606 Santa inside. Some years they decide that he needs sunglasses.
This style of wreath with bells is used along Main and a little bit of some side streets from Avenue A to the BNSF railroad tracks at about 3rd Avenue.
In 2013 the incandescent lights in the wreaths seen above were replaced with cool white LED lights.
We've now moved into downtown, where most store windows are decorated. Longs has the best neon sign remaining downtown.
Longs also has a couple small Santas made by Harold Gale. Both hang from parachutes.
Geoff the giraffe looks out from the window of Gale Wall's photo studio.
Apparently, even bronze statues get cold. It's not a problem though, as some thoughtful soul has furnished a hat and scarf. This is the NW corner of Main and 1st.
The NE corner of Main and Sherman features a window painting by Julie Black for a recent TECH gala..
In 2014, new LED lights were added to downtown from about Avenue C to 3rd Street. I couldn't resist shooting when a convenient snowstorm occurred.
The Antique District is between Avenue A and Avenue D on Main. The most prominent Yuletide feature of the Antique District is this light frame helicopter atop the Anchor Inn at Main Street and Avenue B.
In 2015 a waving Mrs. Claus was added. She waves in 2016 as well.
All colors of the stoplight are seen in this foggy night time exposure.
The Antique district displays lighted pole decorations featuring nostalgic graphics.
The Toy Depot, 127 South Main
During November's Third Thursday, dozens of kids watched the train in the window display of the Toy Depot.
The pressed tin ceiling of Smith's Market is seen beyond this modern life-size window Santa. Here's a full view.
Just off Main near the very south end at 18 West Avenue G, one can find this tribute to Jack Skellington and Zero by Matt Wilcox.
Various notable displays
There are lots of cool Christmas houses just dotted around here and there, not part of a cohesive neighborhood.
There are fewer music-synchronized displays in Hutchinson than there were three years ago, but that of Jason Rose, 1004 College Lane, is going stronger than ever. Set your radio to 106.7.
My favorite thing about this display isn't the high tech stuff, but rather the blow molds. You don't see eight tiny reindeer too often anymore.
Also, this display turns on at 5:20 p.m. rather than at dark, hence the pretty twilight sky.
The Carson family, 800 West 24th Ave., have added a set of singing Christmas trees. Set your radio to 106.7.
This house on the SW corner of 23rd and Van Buren plays music though lawn speakers.
I've admired the way the folks at 822 East Avenue A use an alcove in their exterior architecture as a crèche.
They don't do so every year, but it's really a neat feature.
This house and gazebo are seen reflected in a pond from 17th Ave, looking north, just east of Rice Park.
107 East 9th, by request.
Really Big Stars
Cargill's grain elevator near 3rd Ave and K-61 features a decades-old star. See more in this blog post. I remember in the 1970s one could see stars atop grain elevators in the distance all over the place. This is not the case anymore.
Hutchinson Community College has a Merry Christmas sign and star atop Lockman Hall, visible along the east side of North Plum Street just north of East 11th Ave. If you're lucky enough to have snow, you can have some fun photographing this as there's an electronic message sign just out of frame that lends various colors to the snow. I opted for a moment with deep blue.
The First Presbyterian Church at 201 East Sherman has star patterns made of lights atop its tower. his year the star facing west is slightly askew.
The city of South Hutchinson uses colored spotlights on some of its trees.
The Barretts at 204 South Walnut in South Hutchinson have illuminated their home in a fashion that draws attention from hwy 96. There is also a speaker on the lawn playing Christmas music from a local radio station.
704 South Maple St., South Hutchinson
The City Building of South Hutchinson at 7 South Main Street has a sort of pole tree on its roof.
Mennonite Friendship Communities, 600 W. Blanchard, has a cool star atop the main building
The tall apartment building behind the old Alco building has a star atop.
Christmas Events Yet to Come
The biggest Christmas event yet to come is the Hyde Park Luminaria. See above.
Hutchinson's Historic Fox Theatre will show National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, on Christmas day at 8:00 p.m. The theatre recently restored the lanterns atop the building which are fitted with programmable color-changing LEDs that are red and green for the season.
The Kansas Cosmosphere is showing The Polar Express in its digital dome theatre this Christmas season. See their website for details.
Some Annual Christmas Events of Hutchinson, Kansas
These are over for this year, but look for them next year.
The 2016 Hutchinson Christmas parade happened November 19. The Cosmosphere brought their space shuttle float. For a general sense of the parade, see my 2014 recording. For some other past Christmas parade adventures, see these tales of a dinosaur and a muffler man head. In 2007 I looked at signs along the parade route and in 2008 I looked at people.
My contribution to the parade this year was George Patrick MacGuffin, a former Sinclair dinosaur. He was accompanied by Kansas House of Representatives elect for the 102nd District, Patsy Terrell.
The monthly Third Thursday event featured an ugly Christmas sweater contest. One of the winners was Christopher Wietrick with a Smallville-themed sweater he made, featuring Krypto the superdog.
There was the annual live nativity at the Eagle Media Center Park, 9th and Main. This picture is from 2013, but there were camels this year as well.
Carriage rides downtown were featured this December.
Kids decorated gingerbread houses at Memorial Hall on December 19.
Santa and Mrs. Claus were there to hear your wishes.
The Hutchinson Zoo's Prairie Thunder train became the Polar Express for three weekends and transported folks past Christmas displays.
There's always Christmas entertainment around town. This Year at Metropolitan Coffee, Erin Mai Lewis presented a dulcimer Christmas show with guest vocalist Ben Rivers.
Ace Jackalope (for whom this blog was started) and I wish you a Merry Christmas. I'll be adding to this post regularly. If you have any suggestions for events or displays that should be noted here, please comment or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.