by Linda Tippett
Santa Claus has indeed come to town – or Sylvania Township – where longtime residents Les and PatSchultzhave mounted their annual dazzling display of almost 800 Santas in their spacious suburban home. Spread out in the first-floor rooms along with seven glittering Christmas trees decorated in various holiday themes, the collection features every size and shape of the Santa image. “We started collecting after I unexpectedly acquired a wonderful little Santa dressed in a corduroy suit,” Pat remembers. “And he had a grosgrain ribbon beard and moustache that were just irresistible. Then it all took off from there. But he still has the place of honor on our hearth.” That was 35 years ago, and the couple is still collecting, seeking outChristmas shops during their extensive travels.They also have favorite Santa designers and often visit them in their workshops. Each display has a connected story, like the crystal pendants hanging from the largest of the bright trees. “They are from my mother’s dining room chandelier,” Pat said. “She really loved it, so it seemed only right that they should be part of the Christmas I love.” Each room has multiple displays of Santas from a particular designer or special collection. The foyer overflows with a collection of Santa Bears dating from 1985, with many of them dressed in occupational themes: fireman, pilot, chef, clown or magician. Completing a visitor’s first impression is the tree on the stairway landing, decorated with glistening musical ornaments. And a Santa sits on every step. The collection flows into the living room, dining room, family room, kitchen and enclosed porch. Each designer’s style is distinctive—some whimsical and humorous, some sober and dignified, but all exquisite in detail and workmanship. Many other handcrafted decorations add to the festive atmosphere. When asked how long it takes to set up the display, Pat said, “It takes a whole month with both of us working together. But it only takes a couple weeks to take down!” The collection is all stored in carefully labeled boxes. Every year the Schultz’s enjoy sharing their collection by inviting groups of friends, business associates, and club members to “Evenings with Santa” when a docent is present in each room to give the history and explanation of that particular collection. Refreshments are served and the charge of $5 goes to the scholarship funds of P.E.O., a philanthropic educational organization, of which Pat is a longtime member. As Pat shows a visitor their newest acquisition, Santa in a large antique airplane, she says, “We’re lucky to have a son-in-law who’s a Christmas guy, because my will says I’m leaving all this to him!” But until then, the Schultz’s will continue to celebrate Christmas in their own spectacular fashion. The Schultzs give tours of their home for members of Sylvania United Church of Christ and the Philanthropic Educational Organization.