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Gettin' Jolly with it!

It’s that time of year again at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis… the time when everyone says, “What, Jolly Days ALREADY??” Yep! Some of us (myself included) start thinking about each year’s Jolly Days Winter Wonderland exhibit starting way back in April or May—but things really kick into high gear on November 1. That’s when we roll up our sleeves and get to work.     

As you probably already know, our Jolly Days exhibit goes into the same gallery where The Children’s Museum Guild Haunted House is during the month of October. It takes our hardworking Facilities staff, plus our amazing Guild Witches, two months to build and decorate the Haunted House—and it all has to come out of there in a week!  Starting Nov. 1, it’s a scramble to get the Haunted House pulled down and packed away, and the gallery cleaned and re-painted so that Jolly Days can start going in. So while that’s going on in the gallery space, our exhibits and production team are working hard to get all the decorations in our Welcome Center and Sunburst Atrium into place. 

The giant tree in the Welcome Center requires a crane to put it in place and decorate it, so we usually do that on the first closed Monday after Halloween so we don’t have to worry about visitors’ safety. Then it’s about four straight days of work to get all the other decorations out of our storage facility, into the building, and arranged on the deck around the tree. We also have a giant resident in our Welcome Center—the Transformer, Bumblebee!—and he has to be moved several times to allow us to get equipment around the Welcome Center and hang all the snowflakes from our ceiling. Then he needs his own decorations as well. Once we’re done with the Welcome Center, the crew moves to start unpacking the rest of Jolly Days!

The Yule Slide—everyone’s favorite holiday tradition here at the museum—takes a crew of four people a day and a half to install and decorate, and our giant snow globe takes some serious work too. The tree in the Atrium has to be assembled and decorated before our collections department staff can put Jingles and his stuffed animal friends into place; they are real artifacts from our Steiff animal collection, and have to be handled with care! The gallery façade (the house, the lights, and the title graphic) takes another day to put up. Meanwhile, inside the gallery, our paint crew finishes re-painting and touching up so that the exhibit can be unpacked, installed, cleaned, and tested—seven full semi-trailers-worth of stuff! 

When the walls are in place, the curator brings in the toys and games from our collection that make Jolly Days so special—from old board games to stuffed bunnies, even Santa’s antique desk! The graphics staff adds trees to the walls and replaces any of our signs that are damaged or dirty, and our cleaning crew washes and sanitizes all the toys from the play areas. Once the lights are focused and the floors swept, the exhibit is finally ready for you to visit! 

So from start to finish, getting Jolly Days ready to open takes us about 2,700 work hours total!  I’m tired just thinking about it. Or it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve still got work to do….

In This Week's WOW episode 79, Josh goes to great heights to show us how much goes into decorating for the holidays:


Jolly Days is open Nov. 23, 2019–Jan. 5, 2020!
Santa's Big Arrival is Nov. 29!

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Categories: Collections, Exhibits
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