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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

Celebrating the magic of Christmas

Sunday, December 24, 2006

(Photo)
Ethan Bartlett, 8, and Mmiranda Bartlett, 4, peer through the windows of PerseNality on Center Street.
SIKESTON -- For years, Jeannie Williams created the Disney magic of Christmas in her Sikeston home.

"Schools brought busses, Girl Scouts came, preschools came," she recalled. The last time she decorated two years ago, 526 children visited.

This year, she brought that magic to Center Street in downtown Sikeston. Williams used her skills and Disney Christmas collection to create displays in five store windows, including her own, PurseNality.

"We decided 'we'll make this something special for the kids,'" Williams said.

The Disney decorations decorating the storefronts represent only about 50 percent of Williams' Christmas collection, after 25 years of gathering the figures. "I have about five large boxes left," she said. "We just ran out of time."

In the two weeks prior to the Downtown Open House in mid-November, Williams worked many hours with many at the Accent Shop, Susie's Bake Shop and Restaurant, Joy's Bridal and Formal Wear and A.G. Edwards to create what she calls a "magical" atmosphere. In fact, she was still working at Joy's at 4 p.m., one hour before the open house was to begin.

"I cannot tell you the hours," Williams said. "One night I was working until 10:30."

Although the main focus for the display is children, several adults enjoy it as well. Williams recalled a lady in her 70s who walked in the store in tears, thanking Williams for reminding her of what Christmas was about for her as a child, when she went to St. Louis to look at the displays.

"I love it," said Valli Shirrell of Sikeston. "It really does add to the downtown area."

Her grandchildren, Ethan and Miranda Bartlett, ages 8 and 4, also enjoy the display. "They have an aunt that works at Disney World," Shirrell explained.

The two ask to come downtown just to look at the display. Miranda prefers Minnie Mouse, because she has a bow in her hair. Ethan, on the other hand, said his favorite display is that of Mickey and Minnie Mouse on a window adjacent to Williams' store.

And both love the dog display in the entrance of PurseNality "They also have a Dalmatian," Shirrell explained.

Another favorite of several children is Mickey Mouse, who dances to "Jingle Bell Rock," which sits atop the counter in Williams store. "Sometimes they dance along with it," she said.

The other stores on Center Street were enthusiastic when Williams approached them with her idea.

"I said 'shoot yeah, I think it would be neat,'" said Kathy Kelley, who owns the Accent Shop with her mother, Martha Cox. "It's just not blah -- it makes it feel like it's really Christmas."

From that, the idea of holiday decorations soon became "contagious," Williams said. Her original idea of Disney window displays soon morphed to trees and lights outside and snowflakes in the windows.

Kelley said the downtown traffic has picked up because of the holiday atmosphere. "It attracts the children, then Moms have to come in out of curiosity," she said. Several shoppers have even asked if the decorations were for sale.

The decorations will remain until mid-January, through the post-holiday sales, Williams said. But if someone doesn't make it downtown to see the holiday decor, they'll be able to see it again next year.

"We want to make it a tradition -- this is very important to the community," Williams said. "There's still a lot we can add to it -- and we will."

She was adamant about one thing, however -- the decorations always revolve around Disney characters. "People forget Walt Disney is from Missouri. He was the man behind the magic," Williams said. "We wanted to create something where we would be like Mr. Disney -- the people behind the magic."