Mrs. Claus’ Workshop Offers Unique O.C.-Themed Gifts, Intro to Museum

Mrs. Claus’ Workshop Offers Unique O.C.-Themed Gifts, Intro to Museum

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Mrs. Santa Claus, as portrayed by Babs Stefano, is greeted by 11-month-old Max Pesce, mom Amber Mitzel and dad Tyler Pesce.

 By Tim Kelly

If you missed Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, fret not. Mrs. Claus has you covered.

The Ocean City Historical Museum’s popular Mrs. Claus’ Workshop kicked off Friday with an Open House and craft/vendor fair to mark the opening of its unique holiday shopping experience.

From the looks of things, the event was a big success, as confirmed by none other than Mrs. Claus herself.

“It’s been good. It’s been steady all day,” said Santa’s other half, as portrayed by Ocean City resident and museum volunteer Babs Stefano. “Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves while they (browse) the gifts and the museum. Today has been an event with lots of fun and good people.”

The holiday gift opportunity and exhibits opened Friday and run through Ocean City’s First Night, Jan. 1. The Museum is located inside the Community Center at 1735 Simpson Ave. Admission is free, with donations large, small and in-between gratefully accepted.

Unlike Black Friday and other bustling shopping events, Mrs. Claus’ Workshop moves at a decidedly more leisurely pace.

Shoppers won’t have to battle crowds or fight for parking, or remember coupon codes or computer passwords. Instead, they will find low-tech tables filled with unique Ocean City-themed gifts and other unique presents for the history lover, or the lover of all things Ocean City.

A Victorian Ocean City Parlor, sponsored by Sturdy Savings Bank, is a highlight of the annual Christmas exhibit at the Historical Museum.

Mrs. Claus’ Workshop has the added benefit of offering one-stop shopping, friendly service from Museum staffers and volunteers, and the knowledge that shoppers are helping to support the Museum.

“This is a trial balloon today, but it is going pretty well,” said Jeff McGranahan, the Museum’s executive director. “We’re hoping to have an even larger turnout later as people return home from work.”

Mrs. Claus workshop also includes the Museum’s popular gift offerings such as T-shirts, hats, books and more.

“We have what we call our ‘Attic Treasures,’ authentic antique gifts and antiques offered by Mary Ann Gring,” McGranahan said. Many of these are unique items and one-of-a-kind, he added.

The Museum is also selling wooden ornaments created by the Asbury Avenue shop We Make it Personal. Selling for less than $9, they depict the Ocean City Diamond Jubilee logo created in 1954.  They’re a low-cost, unique Ocean City gift.

Museum Executive Director Jeff McGranahan points to some of the antique paper decorations of the Victorian age on display.

Besides the shopping part of Mrs. Claus’ Market, the event serves as an introduction to the Museum for those unaware of it, or as a reminder for those who have not stopped by in a while. The exhibits are always changing and offer a fascinating glimpse into Ocean City’s rich history.

On Sunday, Dec. 2, there will be a “Crafts for Kids” event in which young visitors will learn how to make their own holiday decorations. The projects are geared toward children from 8 to 10, but they are open to kids of all ages, including grown-up kids, Stefano said.

“An Ocean City Victorian Christmas” is the theme of this year’s holiday exhibit. One of the highlights is a life-sized depiction of a Victorian-era sitting room or “parlor” featuring period furniture, mannequins in period dress and decorations typical of the Victorian age. The display is sponsored by Sturdy Savings Bank.

There is an impressive display of Christmas “kugels,” hand-blown glass ornaments originally made in Germany around 1840 and through the Victorian era. The forerunner to today’s tree ornaments, kugels can be balls (the word “kugel” is German for sphere) or depictions of fruit, Santa, or other festive holiday designs.

Museum volunteer Carol Dotts marvels over a display of “feather trees.”

Museum volunteer Carol Dotts pointed out a display of “feather trees,” some of the first artificial Christmas trees made of goose down, wire and wood, handcrafted to resemble live trees.

“When Teddy Roosevelt was president, our forests were threatened for the first time, and artificial trees were encouraged,” said Dotts, who added that many people today choose faux trees for the same reason.

Dotts explained that the holiday exhibit is not only a look into Ocean City’s past but also at the origins of many holiday traditions handed down through the generations and still enjoyed today.