'Spirit of 56 on the Bay' Gathering
Wishigan Collectors Club
July 14,15,16, 2006
Notre Dame Academy
Green Bay, WI.

Summary by David Spears

Photos by Tish

 It was over 75 degrees when we drove down the hill and out of Duluth at 7 A.M. Thursday morning. We were headed for the Spirit of 56 on the Bay Gathering in Green Bay. It was well over 90 degrees when we opened the car doors seven hours later. It is a good thing that the big school that housed the gathering was air conditioned 'cause the temp never was any lower (during the day).  

We registered at the hotel and found our way over to the Notre Dame Academy. Road construction made the first trip a bit confusing. After that it was a simple, less than ten-minute jaunt. They had a big red double-decked London bus available for the commute but we had display and seminar stuff to haul so opted for our own vehicle.

No registration on Thursday but we were able to unload and set up our display. They used the gymnasium for the market and display area. It was 'big,' well lit and super clean - it looked good. There was a carnival already there as we set up our Lake Superior Zoo. The organizers also provided a place for us to store the supplies we hauled along for our 'Mountain, Ice and Water' seminar. More on the mountain part later.

SuzyQ planned for members of this group to meet a Culver's to share a meal Thursday evening. Five of us made it. I do understand others were doing important things like setting up at the school. And, of course, shopping. I'll bet was most were at one of the event sponsors, PJ's. They had a remarkable selection, nice displays and some steep discounts.

How do I know about PJ's? That is where Linda and I went after eating, and talking, and talking. They still had lots of interesting stuff left, even after the group from Toronto left. At least two of those couples used the stores 'back room cart' to haul Dept 56 product to the cashier. And this was not their only trip to the store.

I would be remiss talking about PJ's if I didn't mention Dick looking for things in the storage area and Joan looking for her calculator at the checkout counter. He was back and forth, up and down ladders, over and under everything finding things for everyone. She had trouble finding the calculator that was right in front of her - almost the only thing on the counter. She smiled as she said it was nearing the end of a very long, busy day.

Friday morning we were able to register and pick up our goodie bags. Among the items in the bag were 'chits' for a Dept 56 accessory and, because we were among the first 100 to register, there was a slip for a retired Dept 56 house. We also picked up our event piece, 'Sleighride on the Bay.' Linda's ticket was also drawn in one of the later seminars (they gave away multiple Dept 56 prizes at each seminar). Thus we 'won' two houses and two accessories.

Oh yes, we also received our event pins, T-shirts (very nice) and the tickets for all the things we planned to attend. You know, the Friday Spanferkel (pig roast), Saturday Banquet, and Sunday Brunch. You can see the complete schedule at: www.d56gathering.com

After a very quick stop in the Mongers Market to say 'Hi' to sisters Jean and Lottie (Mini Things), we 'manned' the National Council of 56 Clubs table for an hour. I was really amazed on how many folks we talked to. Of course the Jack Skeels 'Hurricane Katrina' raffle and NCC trivia contest did bring some of the folks over. Among the NCC folks I met for the first time, in person, were President Bob Obenland and VP Jackie Poole.

Linda and I then went all the way to Reindeer Spa (the rooms were named) for Leigh Gieringer's 'Weathering and Aging Enhances Display's.' Leigh is a bit more laid back than some presenters, but she knows her stuff. She introduced many folks, including Linda, to some of the 'aging/weathering' paints and powders available from the model railroad people. Linda is very artistic and now we have a couple more tools.

There were four other seminars that morning but we just couldn't be everywhere. Later we got smarter and we each went to a different seminar. Lunch was next and I seldom miss that. We ate at the 'Black Cat Diner' (I did mention that they named rooms). A caterer brought the food to the school so it was very convenient. Good sandwich’s, fruit, beverage available at a reasonable price. Coffee and bottled water the first day but they listened and added lemonade on Saturday.

Friday afternoon Linda went to Richard Tuck and Frank Biafore's 'Playland-not-at-the-beach' and I visited 'Many Mini-tips to Give Your Village a Lived-in Look' by Pattie Murphy. The Playland seminar had some technical problems with the 'in house' computer projection system (I hope I said that right!). Linda enjoyed the words but it was tough watching on a laptop. It sounds like it will be an interesting place when they get it finished.

If you know Pattie, and I didn't realize that I did, she talks fast. She was able to pack two hours worth of enthusiasm and information into less than an hour. She did have an able assistant - name unknown to me. She is trying to be a member of this group but between her system and Yahoo, so far the answer has been no. Well that's not entirely true, she can read messages but she can't post. It was nice for me to have a face to go with her name. Just in case you don't know, in the real world she is 'Village Realty and Landscape.'

Somewhere in here we met the/my (?) boss from Village D-Lights, Linda Krueger. Although we have spoke on the phone a few times, and communicated via E-mail many, many, many times, this was our first time to actually shake hands. I actually thought she was taller. We met VDL advertising manager Ronda Jans as well.  

After that we set up for our own seminar, 'Creating Mountains, Water, and Ice.' We were well prepared for the water/ice part but the mountains were a complete surprise. The attendees understood our confusion and things went well. An unnamed president of the NCC was so enthusiastic that he showed up an hour early just to get a good seat (well he actually forgot to change is watch to the Central Time Zone).

The event organizers told us we had sixty-seven people in our classroom designed for 24. It was crowded. Our hour went fast and we had a three-page handout (printed out for us by the Wishigan Club) for all that requested one (including Linda's new husband Raymond). There was also event provided prizes for drawings held in our class (as they did in most all others). Thanks to all that attended our seminar and had such nice things to say. We appreciate it!

Note: we thanked Tim from Pretty Petals for his assistance with questions for our class. And we passed along his love to the group as well. And for those there, we found our 'Water Effects' waterfall stuck to Dept 56 box from our display. I knew we had brought it along :-)

At 5 P.M. we enjoyed dinner at the Spanferkel. That was also held at the school. The food was great (and plentiful). We enjoyed meeting and talking to all our new friends. Not being bingo players, we watched the first few cards and then returned the hotel for some 'sit down and relax' time. I understand that a couple of our Village North friends won their share playing bingo.

Saturday morning Linda and I began with "Making of a Magazine, Village D-Lights.' Linda Krueger is the editor of that magazine and a couple of others. It was interesting to hear some of the thought process that goes into 'making a magazine.'

I then joined other NCC board members in the 'Royal Theater' for a panel discussion on collecting.  I listened a lot while others spoke. I learned that one couple in attendance had over 900 houses in their collection. I did get to handle the drawings for the prizes provided by the event sponsors and the NCC.

The 'It must Be Magic?' seminar was enthusiastically presented by Richard Tuck and Frank Biafore. They enjoyed talking about their 'interesting' home and all that it has to offer. Richard invited everyone to stop and see them if we are ever in San Francisco. They average over 3,000 guests a year.

Linda and I got back together for lunch, again at the 'Black Cat Diner.' Eating lunch proved a good time to chat with folks that we met at previous events (Bachman's or Minnesota 2002). This was mostly Snurfrgirl, Don, and Tom I. Of course SuzyQ and her friend Mary would stop by and we always saw Penny (and Randy) as well.   

Joe Feustel was a man in motion with his 'A New Look at Your Village' seminar. He had all the parts to put together at least a couple dozen vignettes. He did everything from a 'house in glass' to a 'van parking lot.' He may have gone over the time allowed but I didn't hear a single complaint. I even saw a lot of folks stay 'after class' to take photos of the vignettes - that would include Linda.

Richard Tuck and Frank Biafore then turned off the lights to introduce many of us to 'Low Voltage Lighting Techniques.' It really is amazing to see how you can light accessories with those little lights. We are going to have to take a new look at several pieces we own with an eye toward adding lights. Model railroad and doll shops, here we come!

We were back at the Holiday Inn by 5 P.M thinking a walk along the river would be very nice. We soon discovered that at over 90 degrees it was too hot to even sit by the river. We returned to our room for our first real rest break since our arrival.

Before 7 P.M. we took the short walk across the street to the KI Convention Center for the Gathering Banquet. Folks were wandering back and forth along the back wall using the time to bid on the silent auction items. We were at a table with Mike, Lani, Gerry and John from our Village North Collectors Club (Duluth MN/Superior/WI), Tom I. (Northern Lights-Twin Cities/MN), and Jean and Lottie from Mini Things (Gettysburg VA). The food at our table was very good so I would guess the same was true at all the others. They even had some nice pastries for dessert.

After dinner Gerald Charles Dickens performed 'Mr. Dickens Is Coming.' It’s a very interesting and well-done history featuring portions of Charles Dickens' life. Gerald Dickens wrote the piece and performed all the parts. When he shook hands with Eriah Heep from David Copperfield I found myself wiping by hand from the contact (we were sitting in the back of the room).

On Sunday morning we took apart our display, loaded it up and headed for the Sunday Brunch. Do you have any idea how much noise two large, metal pans make when a table collapses and falls to the floor? The pans contained the bacon and sausages that were scheduled to be part of the brunch. No one was hurt and the cater made a nice recovery coming up with plenty of food for everyone. Drawings were held for the final prizes including the fancy trip to Dept 56 in December.

The brunch was our final event gathering. After many goodbyes we headed for home. We took the time to stop by the Green Bay Arboretum as we left town. You gotta know we were tired when, a couple of hours later, we didn't even think about stopping at The Christmas Chalet in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin.

Additional Photos By Linda Spears