Dayton’s devotees looking for a memento from its glory years can now take home a piece of one its greatest traditions: the annual holiday show on the eighth floor.
The Macy’s store in downtown Minneapolis, once the flagship of the Dayton’s department store chain, is taking the next step in its closing sale by selling off select props and animatronic figures from holiday shows such as “A Day in the Life of an Elf.”
With only a short time before the closing expected in early March, Macy’s has rolled out the animatronic figures onto the fourth floor, where for several weeks it was selling other things that made the store go: mannequins, framed art, clothing racks, Christmas decorations, furniture and kitchen supplies from its restaurants.
Fourteen figures were originally brought out, a collection of ballet dancers, courtesans, couples dressed in Victorian clothing and smartly dressed mothers on a stroll with their kids. Originally priced as a set for $7,400, the artisan figures are now priced separately, ranging from $200 to $1,500 depending on condition. Prices are actually marked $400 to $3,000 but nearly everything is discounted an additional 50 percent.
On Monday, the collection grew to 25 figures. A group of dogs, donkeys and a mechanical grandfather clock were added, plus props such as elf-sized upholstered chairs, desks and tables.
The figures are from incomplete sets. The store teams have repurposed some for other areas throughout the years or destroyed others due to copyrights, said Andrea Schwartz, Macy’s spokeswoman for the North Central region.
“I’m amazed that any of them are left,” said Matt Dunn, creator of “Scream Town,” a Halloween theme park with animatronic figures. “I would think anyone who grew up going to the annual holiday shows would want a piece of that nostalgia.”
The Minnesota Historical Society had first pick before any were put out for sale. They have a tentative agreement for an animatronic Cinderella (shown in 1989), Pinocchio (1991) and Prof. Severus Snape from Harry Potter (2000). All are likely to be donated to the society along with artists’ renderings, media, photos and press kits.
“We looked for major, well-known characters that were in good condition with cross generational appeal,” said Sondra Reierson, associate curator of 3-D objects for the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.
Lorence Neeley of Clearwater, Minn., hopes to check out the selection Thursday. He’s been on the hunt for Santaland-type memorabilia for decades. “I started going to see the Dayton’s windows with my mom in the 50s, and I haven’t missed a holiday show since they began,” he said. He already has a number of pieces such as a Pinocchio backdrop found at auctions and antique shops.
“I talked for seven years with a guy at Dayton’s to sell me a Santaland grouping. Then Marshall Field’s took over and I never heard from him again,” Neeley said.
The condition of the figures ranges from pristine to pitiful. Some are missing hands or fingers, while another had its feet on backward. The electrical cords are still attached, but it is not clear if the mechanisms are in working order.
Customers take an elevator to reach the fourth floor since many of the escalators are closed off. Merchandise in the rest of the store is currently discounted 40 to 60 percent with some seasonal items and rugs at 70 and 80 percent off.
One seasonal item of nostalgia that has yet to make an appearance at the sale is Santa Bear. After 23 years, Dayton’s retired the ubiquitous bears in 2007. The sale is expected to continue into mid-March.
A list of holiday themes for each holiday show at Dayton’s/Marshall Fields/Macy’s since 1963 can be found online at strib.mn/2m93XFY.