Downtown Cedar Rapids as it is in 2021 is an amazing place. An eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, retail, entertainment, businesses, and new living spaces continue to go up on a regular basis. The charm of the area is definitely on full display every December as it becomes a winter wonderland decked out in holiday style.

One place that used to be everyone's go-to back in the day was Armstrong's Department Store. For shopping, dining, and those amazing cookies, no one could beat Armstrong's, especially around the holidays. From gift ideas to visits with Santa, the things you have to go all over town for this time of year were all in one place until the store went out of business in 1991.

That magic is back thanks to an exhibit at the Cedar Rapids History Center now through December 30. Ron King helped bring the classic display to life for 24 years at Armstrong's and has helped recreate it for the History Center. It's open to the public now through December 30 from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Friday, 4-8 p.m. Thursday, and 10-4 on Saturday for a modest $7 admission for adults, $5 for students and free for members, that helps programs like this continue at the History Center.

According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, "Rudolph's Retreat" coincides with a larger exhibit upstairs called "The Armstrong Family: Fashion & Philanthropy."

What's going to make the Christmas exhibit even more special, says Ron King, is the effort it took on the part of him and his staff, to track down some of the pieces.

An amazing discovery, right under their nose

They found out that three of the original elves were just sitting in storage at the Armstrong building and two others were purchased back from sellers on Facebook Marketplace. So that makes five of the original seven elves on display. The reindeer and other elements are replicas made to look like the original exhibit.

The exhibit debuted last weekend to rave reviews

At an unveiling last weekend, the Gazette interviewed visitors who marveled at the magic. The History Center is open at 800 Second Ave. SE in the Douglas Mansion.


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