Dayton’s customers who miss their annual pilgrimage to the holiday show in downtown Minneapolis can still get a glimpse into a beloved tradition.
Magician Matt Dunn of Plymouth has re-created scenes from the 1989 “Cinderella” show in his front yard for passersby on foot and in cars.
In two expansive scenes the size of department store windows, Dunn shows off Cinderella, the prince, the evil stepmother and the two sisters.
“I like putting together things that give people memories,” said Dunn, also the owner of the Halloween theme park Screamtown in Chaska. “I see nostalgia fading away. I want to figure out a way to keep it going so the magic can live on.”
He made the scenes as authentic as possible by researching Dayton’s holiday shows online. It took about 30 hours of painting and construction to bring the scene alive, including reproducing the wallpaper in one of the original vignettes.
Fans of the Dayton’s holiday shows likely remember the dancing, twirling animatronic figures throughout, although most were stationary. Dunn purchased 14 of the static figures for his collection in February when Macy’s started to empty the attic of the cavernous, venerable building. The retailer was selling scores of the display figures from shows such as Harry Potter, Snow White, the Nutcracker, Beauty & the Beast, Puss ‘N Boots and Paddington Bear.
“Macy’s was charging more for the mechanized figures,” Dunn said. “It looked like a lot of the wires were cut, so I passed on them.”
What he got was a Cinderella dressed in a white tulle ballgown, a bejeweled tiara, a slipper under glass, a regal prince and a couple of pumpkins thrown in for effect.
Dunn plans to keep the display up through the holidays at 4130 Juneau Lane N. in Plymouth. Along with Cinderella, the display also includes an elf village that debuted last year.
Next year, Dunn has plans for new sets from Wind in the Willows, which was the show at Dayton’s in 1995, and A Christmas Carol, the show in 1996.
“In hindsight, I regret not getting more figures,” Dunn said. “I’ve looked on eBay and the internet for more. I thought there would be a bulk deal, but I haven’t seen any.”
For Dunn and anyone else wanting to bring home some Dayton’s nostalgia, it’s not too late. Bob Iwaskewycz, owner of Accent Store Fixtures in Minneapolis, purchased 20 dumpsters of Macy’s mannequins, Christmas decorations and displays.
Included in the haul were more than 100 of the holiday show figures. He is selling them for $50 to $200 each, depending on how elaborate they are. Last month, dozens of the bald figures rested in big hoppers with smiles, arms and legs frozen in time.
“I held on to the animatronic figures until I had more room to display them, but I still have a pair of life-size bears and jewelry display pieces from Macy’s,” Iwaskewycz said.
The Minnesota Historical Society selected pieces from Cinderella, Pinocchio and Harry Potter. The figures were on display through October in the Gale Family Library at the History Center. It has no plans to display them for the holidays.
Dunn is continuing the donation box tradition he started last year on site with all proceeds going to the Wayzata-Plymouth Meals on Wheels program, where he is a board member. The display raised more than $3,000 last year.