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Exhibits are museum's seasonal stars

There is the roly-poly Santa, the Santa in green carrying a peddler's bag on his back, Father Christmas, a blue Santa, Grandfather Frost and even Mrs. Claus carrying cookies.

A few feet away, hundreds of miniature toy soldiers stand at the ready, guarding Waterloo and Gettysburg, Pa.

And in a case across the room, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the gang hang out on puzzles, plates, snow globes and ornaments.

It really is like Christmas morning at the Toy Town Museum in East Aurora, where three special holiday exhibits, dubbed "Soldiers, Santas and Snoopy," are making their homes until the end of the year.

"It's a Charlie Brown Christmas" is a whimsical display of collectibles from the holiday classic, on loan to the museum from Mary Rimbeck-Wieszala. It includes collectible statues and even a Peanuts caramel apple kit complete with caramels, nuts, sprinkles and popsicle sticks -- never opened.

Painstaking is the only way to describe the care with which Dennis Hover set up his soldiers from around the world, displayed in the formation of the military units that they represent.

From Gen. George Washington and his army surprising Hessian mercenaries in the Battle of Trenton, to the Union and Confederate armies battling on a field at Gettysburg in 1863 and the British and French armies at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, each soldier, horse and cannon is placed exactly where historians said they stood.

Hover and the family of C.H. Evans made their exhibits of Britains toy soldiers available to the museum. Britains, founded in 1845, is the largest toy-soldier maker in the world. The company introduced the first hollow-cast lead soldiers in 1893. The lead toys were discontinued in 1966 because of concerns over child safety, and now are cast in lead-free pewter.

The first Christmas exhibit that greets visitors is the collection of more than two dozen Santas, carved by Charles Hunt of Elma.

He carves a Santa for his two daughters and his wife every year.

"We have more than 50 of them I've carved over the years," he said.

A retired mechanical drawing teacher from Iroquois Central, Hunt also carved the miniature Herschell-Spillman carousel on display at the museum.

"I sometimes amaze myself," he said. "I'll look at something and say, 'How the heck did I do that?' "

He used basswood to carve the Santas. Each is different, many based on folklore from different countries.

The museum also is collecting for the Toys for Tots campaign, and will host a visit from Santa Claus on Dec. 16. The museum and Hospice Foundation team up to support both programs and Essential Care for Children, a pediatric home care program of Hospice Buffalo, with Share the Bear Day today.

The museum is at 636 Girard Ave. Admission is free.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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