ROCK SPRINGS – It’s a longtime tradition in Rock Springs to catch the eye of Santa in the mirror while he plays the pipe organ. The Marguerite Santa has performed in many places, including the long-closed store that gave him his first home, and will continue the Christmas custom nightly from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 2-31 at the Rock Springs Historical Museum.
To celebrate the return of the miniature mechanical musician, the Rocket Miner is hosting a free event Monday night, when the Marguerite Santa starts his concert series, where people can see the storefront display through the old firehouse doors, listen to music, and enjoy cocoa and cookies at the museum at 201 B St.
The Marguerite Santa has been a source of fascination for children and adults since he was first put on display in Marguerite Parker Galicich’s North Front Street Gift Shop window in 1946 or 1947. Stories differ whether Marguerite’s husband, Albert Galicich, bought Santa in New York while on leave during the Second World War, or if Saint Nick was purchased in Denver after Galicich returned home. Either way, children lingered at Marguerite’s to see the little velvet-clad Santa whenever they were downtown for 30 years, until Christmas 1977.
Rock Springs native Barbara J. Bertagnolli, author of “Years Ago: Scenes and Stories from Rock Springs, Wyoming,” said, “Marguerite’s was snazzy. Beginning with the flashy black-and-white tile exterior and delightful window displays of chic, classy gifts, Marguerite’s was the place to go. ... During the Christmas season Marguerite’s front window displayed a pint-sized mechanical Santa seated at a nifty little pipe organ playing Christmas songs. ... To say I was completely absorbed by Marguerite’s little Santa is a bit of an understatement. I could have spent the entire month of December watching him.”
Marguerite’s Gift Shop closed in the spring of 1978, and Santa went into storage. He reappeared in 1980 in Carmen Berta’s antique shop in Rock Springs for a brief encore before moving to Hurricane, Utah. Berta, her husband Rusty, daughter Wendy, and son-in-law Bob Sines took care of the Santa in his new home for many years.
In 1994, the Marguerite Santa made a one-season-only return visit to the Rock Springs Historical Museum before retiring back into Berta’s care. Finally, in 2007, Santa returned to Rock Springs, where he makes his permanent home at the museum and reappears every year in December to the delight young and old alike!
OTHER HOLIDAY EVENTS AT THE MUSEUM
This year the Rock Springs Historical Museum will be decorated for the season through Jan. 6. There will be a red mailbox for letters to Santa out in front of the museum Nov. 30 through Christmas Eve.
Santa will meet with visitors in the old fire station every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 30 through Dec. 21. The museum board will serve cookies and hot chocolate before the annual Lighted Holiday Parade on Dec. 7.