The first of two new Rike’s Wonderland Windows has been revealed and is on display in the Wintergarden at the Schuster Center in Dayton. MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF

Dayton’s classic Rike’s Wonderland Windows have new additions

Dayton’s long running holiday tradition, the Rike’s Wonderland Windows, has something new this year. 

Two new window boxes and four new elves are making their debut in the Wintergarden of the Schuster Performing Arts Center. 

The first new box is currently on view showcasing a scene from a performance of The Nutcracker on stage at the Victoria Theatre. Within the box a ballerina soars in the air as a Christmas tree ascends from the stage floor.

A second box will be revealed Dec. 18 and display a colorful, busy scene from Santa’s workshop and include a new elf working a lathe. 

The boxes were designed by Dayton native Adam Koch, a set designer in New York and constructed by local scene builders, Scenic Solutions. The Dayton Sewing Cooperative created the clothing for the elves.

A soldier is part of The Nutcracker scene within the new Rike's Wonderland Window. The character was part of the Rike's display in the 1960s and has been refurbished. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The new characters, part of the Rike’s displays in the 1960s, were donated by a Dayton family who used them in their home display at Christmas time. The family purchased them at an auction of Rike’s objects in the early 1990s. 

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For many Daytonians it’s just not Christmas without the animated characters whose antics once delighted shoppers at Rike’s department store. 

The window displays go back to 1943 when the National Cash Register Co. (NCR) placed five scenes from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in their New York City office windows, according to research done by Dayton historian Curt Dalton. The figures, dressed in period attire, were incorporated into elaborate backgrounds built by NCR carpenters. 

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In 1945 Frederik Rike, owner of the Rike-Kumler company, successfully campaigned to move the display into the windows of his department store at Second and Main streets in downtown Dayton. 

 

After the store closed in 1991 the window displays were auctioned off splitting up the characters between other communities and private buyers. The Downtown Dayton Partnership was able to purchase a portion of them and raised money to restore them. 

A ballerina ascends with a growing Christmas tree within a new display of the Rike's Wonderland Window boxes at the Schuster Center in downtown Dayton. LISA POWELL / STAFF

The display found a new home in 2003 in the Schuster Center. Cases built for each scene mimic the old Rike’s windows. 

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Janice Potter, assistant production manager for the Victoria Theatre Association and known as the “Keeper of the Elves,” said she began assembling the boxes in early November, unwrapping dozens of the mechanical characters, solving malfunctions and making motor repairs. 

“The pressure of these challenges all disappear when I see children running from box to box with joyful laughs and wide-eyed amazement as they experience the magic of these boxes,” Potter said. “It warms my heart to know that I was part of creating a treasured memory that will last a lifetime.” 

WANT TO GO? 

WHAT: Rike’s Wonderland Windows 

WHERE: The Wintergarden Wonderland at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton 

WHEN: The Wonderland Windows are available to view Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. and Sunday, noon- 6 p.m. They are closed during private events, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Call 228-7591 before you head to the Schuster Center as private events are not always publicized. 

ADMISSION: Free 

MORE INFO: https://victoriatheatre.com/shows/wintergarden-wonderland/

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