Christmas puppets to barbershop choirs, arts events usher in the holiday season

Temperatures are dropping, and the early birds have already begun stringing up their twinkling lights.

With Thanksgiving and the December holidays just around the corner, the Kitsap County art scene is growing into its full force. Rehearsals go around the clock for shows that expect to dazzle and even melt the heart of the biggest Grinch.

For those who can't wait, take note of events which begin as early as the day after Thanksgiving.


Nothing says holidays like going to see the Nutcracker with the family. This year Bremerton High School will be hosting three dance troupes on separate dates.

Right after Thanksgiving, on Nov. 26 and 27, the Dance Arts Theatre and Irene's School of Dance will take the stage for their 16th  annual performance.

Last week, the dancers from Irene's performed a preview of the show at Brownsville bazaar.

"The excitement started growing then, having the costumes on, the dancers all had looks like 'wow, it's really here," said Irene Miller, founder of the school.

Dancers of all ages from kindergarten to senior company have been rehearsing for the event since October. In addition to normal classes, there are Saturday and Sunday Nutcracker rehearsals which run for the whole afternoon.

"We rehearse different parts on different days so the young ones don't have to be there the whole time, but it's still a good time commitment," said Miller.

Miller explained that there have been a couple minor injuries, like twisted ankles and sprains, during rehearsals. Also, the flu has taken out some of her dancers.

But the show will go on.

Miller said that audiences this year can look forward to Act II variations and a snow scene which should be "truly visually stunning," as well as comedic numbers from Mother Ginger and the buffoons. According to the director, the youngest dancers as sugar angels always get the biggest crowd response.

"It's a great way to kick off the holiday season, sets the mood for the whole holiday," said Miller.

Tickets for Irene's School of Dance performances are available at the school or at the Kitsap Mall information booth. Or, call (360) 692-4395. Shows are Nov. 26, 27, Dec. 2, 3 and 4 atBremerton High School Performing Arts Center Tickets for the Peninsula Dance Theatre performances can be purchased on their website at or by calling (360) 377-6214.



Kitsap's version of Rockefeller Center is right in Old Town Silverdale.

The tallest Christmas tree on the Kitsap Peninsula will light up on Nov. 26 with help from Silverdale Kiwanis, who will be serving up hot cider, cookies, and hot chocolate to warm up the crowds.

Holiday performances by the Kitsap Chordsmen and Jackson Park and Emerald Heights Elementary choirs will provide the backdrop for the spectacle that is a Kitsap tradition.

"Music is the biggest thing that gets people into the spirit of Christmas. From religion to cartoons, whatever your interest is in the holiday, it's all there in the music," said Jon Powless, a Kitsap Chordsman.

Powless said that his favorite Christmas song is 'Oh Holy Night,' a song known for causing more than a few glistening eyes within the crowd.

For the kids, Chordsmen director Mike Menefee has composed a Christmas cartoon medley. The mix includes ditties from Frosty the Snowman, Charlie Brown, and the Grinch.

Powless said that the cartoon numbers go well with the Chordmen's signature barbershop sound.

"But even the traditional songs don't sound quite the same," said Powless. "We bring our own barbershop feel to them."

Bundle up for the tree lighting event, another great way to kick off the holiday season.

Tree lighting Nov. 26 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Old Town Silverdale



The Valentinetti Puppet Museum, home to 1,200 puppets, will have special holiday puppet display including 40 new puppets, such as Uncle Mistletoe, Aunt Holly, and the Snow Queen.

Famous like their maker, the puppets are the originals crafted by puppet master Aurora Valentinetti for Frederick and Nelson department store in Seattle.  From the 1950s through the 70s, Uncle Mistletoe and Aunt Holly became famous faces in the city as street windows hosted live performances from Christmas to New Years.

"It was an extremely strenuous existence for those performers," said Stanley Hess, museum curator.

In previous years the museum featured historic German nutcrackers during the holidays, butthis year Hess wanted to do something to bring the holiday spirit alive for the children.

"A lot of the art of puppetry is found less in the physical these days. I wouldn't say that puppetry is dying. It's morphing into different kinds of things. For example, children are finding the joy of puppets again in movies like Toy Story or Finding Nemo. CGI is closely linked to puppetry. Kids still have a deep love of the art," said Hess.

Hess and the gallery volunteers will be recreating Valentinetti's intricate holiday showcases for a new generation of winter enthusiasts. The gallery will open their showcases to the public on Dec. 2.

Runs Dec. 12 through Jan. 14 at the Aurora Valentinetti Puppet Museum in BremertonFor more information visit


The reindeer are flying in to Clear Creek Nursery. Prancer and Dancer, who are en route from Seattle, arrived Friday.

The live reindeer and Moses the camel are part of an annual winter wonderland spectacular hosted on the nursery grounds and shop.

"When it's all put together, it's like Disneyland. The kids go crazy," said Linda Johnson, nursery staff.

Families enter the building, which during the normal year is a fresh produce and gourmet foods shop, but for the holiday months is transformed into an indoor wonderland forest.

Dozens of trees, festooned in gold, white, red, green, and silver create a holiday maze. Handmade wreaths, holiday cookies, cheeses, and baubles abound.

Then it begins to snow indoors.

Johnson said that families sit in an open area of the shop. The lights are dimmed, darker and darker as the holiday music builds up to a crescendo and then all the trees are lit at once as a flurry of snow falls from the ceilings.

"The room is filled with oohs and aahs. Some kids will put their toe into it gingerly, while go 'Yahoo!' and jump right in," said Johnson.

Johnson explained that the snow is a quick melting synthetic used in Disney productions, making it easy to repeat the performance every hour. A professional crew comes in to install the snow system in the weeks leading up to the event.

Outdoors, kids can sit in a big red sled with Prancer and Dancer at the helm. According to Johnson, the reindeer are known for being 'tame as a dog' and playful with the children, making for great photos.

The winter wonderland snow show is free and open to the public beginning Nov. 25 and runs through Dec. 24 with hourly snow shows from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm, (Thursday-Sunday only)



For those Kitsap residents with a sweet tooth, The Farm Kitchen in Poulsbo hosts community gingerbread-house-making parties.

Anne Thatcher has tables of gingerbread house material are spread out in two large rooms of a renovated barn. All the gingerbread is made on site in their kitchen from organic ingredients. Each house gets its own candy station so that there is 'no squabbling.'

"The first event after Thanksgiving is often the most packed, partly because people have family in town for the holidays and this is something fun that every one can do," said Thatcher.

According to the gingerbread coordinator, brothers and sisters in their 70s rekindle some major holiday rivalry.

"It's as if they're 10-year-olds again. They get so competitive, but it's wonderful to see how creative people get. I've seen Tootsie Roll pops bundled into fire wood logs, candy pounded into ponds. Someone actually created reindeer for the roof out of candy bits," said Thatcher.

Thatcher said that patrons take their masterpieces home and enjoy them for the rest of the holiday season, but warns parents to watch out for thieving sweet-tooths.

"One mom had her gingerbread house displayed all through Christmas. When she went to take it down, she realized her son had been slowly eating away the whole back end of it through the season. There was barely anything left!" said Thatcher.

For more information on reserving a gingerbread party and planned dates visit



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