Nutcracker at The Paine, a holiday classic

The Nutcracker, a classic Christmas story filled with sugarplum fairies and leaping ballerinas, has been around since 1892. The story of Clara and her nutcracker has been displayed and reenacted annually for the past 11 years at The Paine Art Center during the holiday season. The Paine’s Special Event Coordinator, Christine Melms-Simon, has been coordinating the exhibit since its beginnings.

“You are the story when you come here to see the Nutcracker,” she said. “We have got it down to a science.”

While Nutcracker performance attendees walk and absorb the magic, they are able to take in the elegantly decorated Christmas trees and the rooms that consist of themes inspired by the ballet.

Freshman Sara Morehouse has already been to the exhibit and was able to see the Christmas decorations displayed.

“It is very magical and creative,” she  said of the event’s staging in the classical center. “Everything looked amazing and the whole experience was a lot of fun. I really liked all the beautiful Christmas tree decorations.”

During the holiday season, the Paine is home to 70 meticulously and extravagantly decorated Christmas trees. In total it takes about three and a half weeks to decorate them all, which is less time than when the exhibit was put on 11 years ago where they started decorating six weeks before the opening of the exhibit. Along with the Christmas decorations, ballet performances are offered for individuals who reserve their tickets in advance, offering attendees a chance to deepen and enhance their visit.

“Dancers from the Valley Academy of The Arts come and perform and they dance your way through the mansion telling you the story through dance,” Melms-Simon said.  

This is an event that many local families attend annually and hold as a part of their Christmas traditions. Community member Katy Blaser has been attending this event with her family for five years now.

“This has become a family tradition and now three generations of my family come to experience it,” she said. “We love going to the Sugar Plum Fairy Café and walking through the gardens. The ballet is my girls’ favorite part.”

The Paine works all year round to surpass the standards they set each season, and opens its Nutcracker display in the middle of November to slake the thirst of those in need of a festive boost. Freshman Lauren Spiller has attended the event in years past.

“The whole building was very beautifully decorated with many bright trees throughout the many rooms,” she said of the varied and ornate decor. “I enjoyed walking through all the exhibits portraying the different scenes, and I can not wait to go back this holiday season.”

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