For about 20 years, Blair Struble has been collecting animated characters from department store Christmas displays spanning from the 1940s to the 1990s. He has dozens of beautiful, hand-painted, wood-carved or papier-mâché Santa Clauses and elves, many of which move by mechanical means.
In 2020, the pandemic was putting a damper on the holiday spirit for a lot of people, so he decided to create a retro winter wonderland in front of his Lake Oswego home to celebrate the season.
“We got a huge turn out and everybody loved it,” Struble said. “I collect all this stuff, why not put it out for people to enjoy? It makes people so happy when they come see it.”
Every year since then, the display has grown and, this summer, Struble and his husband moved to a 5-acre farm in Newberg with a machine shop that he converted to house the Christmas characters. The North Pole at Eagle Crest will be open to the public seven times this year, starting at 5 p.m. tomorrow.
There are dozens of Santas and elves and more set up in scenes that Struble, an interior designer, created himself. There will also be free hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies.
There’s a station for writing your letter to Santa and a fancy mailbox to pop it into. If you include a return address, Struble says Santa will write you back.
Everything is free, but Struble has a QR Code posted and invites people to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“We’ve raised just over $18,000 in three years. So this year, I’m hoping with the bigger location and the bigger display, we’re able to really give St. Jude a big chunk,” he said.
Struble finds the characters made by Harold Gale and David Hamberger at antique stores, online or from other collectors. He says this year’s display features 75%-80% of his collection. The pieces usually arrive in some state of disrepair and Struble fixes the motors and spruces them up.
“That’s what I really like to do, bring them back to their original magical vibe,” he said.
If you go: The North Pole at Eagle Crest, 31727 N.E. Wilsonville Rd., Newberg, is open 5-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday Dec. 8-10 and 15-17 and Friday, Dec. 22. northpolepdx.org
— Mims Copeland, The Oregonian/OregonLive