December 2nd, 2011 at 9:00 am
Yesterday, we learned about what A Brandywine Christmas meant for some families. Today, we will take a closer look at what makes this experience so special for many. The trains have been a part of A Brandywine Christmas since 1971, with Steven Clarke serving as the curator for the past 35 years. The layout features “O” gauge trains running on approximately 2,000 feet of track. Both scale model and toy trains are included, including one car that features a camera to provide an engineer’s view through a mounted monitor. Some train “celebrities” – a.k.a. Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends – can often been seen in the layout which is home to a town, a working train yard, model dairy, quarry, oil refinery, concrete plant and Herrs Food factory. And yes, even Santa and his sleigh fly over the busy scene.
Just as famous as the train display – perhaps even more so – is the grand collection of whimsical “critter” ornaments that appear every holiday season. The critters, made by volunteers from dried flowers, grasses, seeds and pods, fill several themed Christmas trees within the museum. For many families, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without admiring these natural little charmers who have been around since the early days of the museum when a group of volunteers decorated a small tree with natural materials, to emphasize the museum’s role as part of the Brandywine Conservancy.
Those first ornaments were somewhat simple creations, but as the years have gone by, the critters have become more and more elaborate, eventually gaining national attention. In 1984, museum volunteers were asked to decorate the main Christmas tree in the Reagan White house and more than 3,000 critters were required for the project. Critters have also been on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. No matter where they are, they always bring delight to the audiences who admire them.
“In addition to the trains, my daughters also loved the Christmas trees adorned with ornaments made from pinecones, twigs, and other forest finds,” continues Fackler, the mom of two from Ambler, PA. “They were so delighted to see the little “woodland creatures” the artists created.”
And artists, they are. Every year, over 100 volunteers give Santa’s elves a run for their money as they gather to create the ornaments in a workshop on the conservancy campus. These dedicated critter creators work for over 30,000 hours in order to make almost 9,000 ornaments – some for display, but most for the popular Annual Critter Sale, scheduled this year for Saturday, December 3rd and Sunday, December 4th from 9:30am to 4:30pm. (Following the sale, critters can be purchased at the Museum Shop with proceeds benefiting the Volunteers’ Art Purchase Fund, which has added more than 200 paintings, drawings and prints to the Museum’s holdings since 1975.) That’s all for today folks! Please come back tomorrow to learn more about this special occasion!
Founded in 1971, the Brandywine River Museum holds American art, especially the foremost collection of art by members of the Wyeth family, including N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth. The museum also features renowned collections of American illustration, landscape and still life painting. The museum is located in a restored, mid-19th century grist mill on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania along the banks of the Brandywine River. A Brandywine Christmas runs from November 25th, 2011 through January 8th, 2012. The museum is open daily, 9:30am to 4:30pm, except Christmas Day, and with extended hours until 6:00pm December 26th through 30th. Admission is $10 for adults; $6 for seniors ages 65 and over, students, and children over six; free for children under six and museum members. Due to the large number of visitors during the holiday season, the museum is unable to accommodate baby strollers. For more information, call 610-388-2700 or visit www.brandywinemuseum.org.