Story on the effort to raise the funds-originally aired on July 2, 2012
With temperatures in the 90's on the eve of the Fourth of July, Christmas may be the last thing on your mind. But, one group is focusing on a local holiday tradition. They're trying to bring back something that was part of many childhoods, but is in danger of being lost forever.
Local 12's Bob Herzog has an update on the Shillito's elves. 'Twas months before Christmas, and all through the Tri-State, every creature was sweating, the heat - it was great. But in the Mariemont Inn, being handled with care, the old Shillto's elves are in need of repair. "There's a lot of wear on it. Like you can see the clock's pulling the guys pants off. It's just... They need to be brought back up and sewn. The outfits need to be refreshed. Some of the motors need to be worked on."
That's what Bill Spinnenweber, the inn's GM, said About the crazy ideas that have danced in his head. For over six years, he's owned every elf cap. His brain hoping they'd close a generation gap. "I'm hoping to be standing in the background as people are going in and watching generation upon generation come in. You know, grandparents bring their kids, bringing the grandkids and so forth."
Stored here in the inn and in Bill's father's garage, stacked from floor to the ceiling, like a big elf collage. "Fourteen feet high. Probably 20 feet wide and 15 feet deep, just floor to ceiling elves."
The display includes 75 santa's helpers and 14 big scenes-it's been quite awhile since the whole thing's been seen. So, enter Jerry Gels, a right jolly old elf. He runs Newport gangster tours and remembers Shillito's himself. Gels says, "I'm an avid Christmas lover. I have 5 thousand Christmas lights in my basement synchronized to music, 7 christmas trees."
And after talking to Bill, Jerry finally said, Newport On the Levee is the place we should head. "But that's just the storefront space that's needed. You also need significant parking. You need places for lines."
"So Newport On the Levee is the one place that had everything we were looking for."
Fundraising and repair are the next pieces of work; to get the original team back could be quite a perk. They're needed to fix old elf tools and elf clothes. With unique ways to raise money, Jerry hopes a fund grows. "For $200, you can actually get to name your elf. We have 75 elves available for naming. So if you and your family have a great elf idea or, you know, you want to name it after your grandpa who loved Christmas, I think this is going to be a really fun thing this year."
To spring a beloved tradition all the way back to life takes patience and care, and maybe, some strife. But, if all goes well on the Levee, families should see quite a sight, thinking "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
To find out about how you can help the effort to save the Shillito's elves, click here.