Permanent ho-ho-home for Santa

23:00, Nov 26 2012
Santa's cave
'TIS THE SEASON: Exhibition technician Brent Robinson helps fix the 94-year-old Santa's Cave exhibits into their permanent spot on the first floor of Te Manawa.

Palmerston North's iconic Santa's Cave is out of storage, and now has a permanent home on the first floor of Te Manawa.

The 94-year-old exhibition, which has been staged at Christmas every year except one because of a polio epidemic during World War II, will open on Saturday for its third year at Te Manawa.

The mechanical display underwent a $20,000 shift, sponsored by its former landlord Farmers department store, to Te Manawa in 2010.

Since then it has been shifted around the museum, and put into storage each year, until now.

Curator of social history Tony Rasmussen said Santa's Cave now had a permanent spot, which would not encroach on space needed for other exhibitions. "It's a new gallery in its own right."

Mr Rasmussen and his team spent the past six months upgrading, overhauling and building on the classic displays.


"There has been quite a bit of building this time around," he said. "We had to adapt a whole room."

But the childhood favourites, such as the monkey band and the carousel are all there.

"We've kept all the classic features of the cave."

Some of the displays had been around since 1918, and needed "some serious conservation work".

Norling's Palmerston North overhauled some of the motors and electrical components, free of charge.

Mr Rasmussen and the staff at Te Manawa were working frantically to get the 25 displays in the exhibition out of storage, functioning, and clean before the opening.

"We are going to bring out pretty much the whole cave as it was at Farmers."

The aim was to continue the magic of the old displays, without it becoming outdated.

"It's really to keep a Palmerston North tradition going," Mr Rasmussen said. "Over time we are keeping it fresh . . . we are looking to what can be done in the future."

About 10,000 people visited Santa's Cave during its first year at Te Manawa.

And a lot of those visitors had not been to the cave before, he said.

Most visitors were either young families, or grandparents with their grandchildren.

They often remembered going through the cave as children, Mr Rasmussen said.

Santa's Cave opens at Te Manawa on Saturday, December 1, until January 6. It will be open every day from 10am until 5pm.

Santa Claus will be in his cave from 10am until noon, and 3pm to 5pm, until Christmas Eve.

Santa's Cave will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day.

Manawatu Standard