Walk in a winter wonderland at the Chagrin Falls Historical Society & Museum and enjoy holiday tree lights and history for their outdoor exhibit, “Welcome Christmas.”

The historical society and museum, located at 87 E. Washington St., kicked off its exhibit alongside the downtown Lighting of the Greens in the village, setting up trees throughout the front yard to feature the history of Chagrin Falls and the arts and celebrate the holiday season.

“We wanted to do a big Christmas exhibit inside. We love doing family friendly activities. It’s very fun to do something around the holidays that’s educational but fun, but obviously with [COVID-19] we couldn’t do something inside and feel safe about it,” Executive Director Ruth Zeager said.

Instead, the museum planned for a scaled down installation, opting for a self-guided outdoor exhibit where families can safely enjoy learning more about the history of Chagrin Falls and view the holiday lights.

“Everyone feels a little bit safer outside, I think,” she said.

Drawing inspiration from last year’s Christmas exhibit where each tree was decorated for a different decade, Ms. Zeager explained that the historical society used those trees to create a “winter wonderland” in the front yard.

Each tree includes different historical facts, including a partnership with the Valley Art Center for its 50th anniversary.

“We have a lot of artwork in our collection, and some of the artists were artists who worked with the Valley Art Center, like Bob Takatch, Nancy Martt, they were some of the founding members of the Valley Art Center,” she said. Some of the trees include print-out and laminated models of some of the artwork the museum has along with the history of the artist. “Chagrin has a deep love of the arts. Art’s very prominent throughout town.”

The front porch of the museum is decorated for family photos, Ms. Zeager added, including a large wreath and a holiday display window, reminiscent of what wonderstruck children used to gaze upon at Macy’s or Higbee’s department stores.

“We’re your museum. We’re here for the public, we want you to come to our front yard, walk around, feel free to look at all the trees. We want you to come up the steps,” she said. “I think it’d be really special for people just to come look at it, take some pictures, learn some history about the Valley Art Center and art in Chagrin.”

While the museum is temporarily closed due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, having to cancel the Dec. 5 open house originally scheduled for the exhibit, Ms. Zeager emphasized in an online announcement that the outdoor exhibit is still open to the public because it is self-guided and outside. She added that the online gift shop is open 24/7 at chagrinhistorical.org/museum-store, with shipping and curbside pick-up available.

The museum asks that visitors maintain social distancing and wear masks while exploring the exhibit.

Alongside the exhibit, the historical society is also collecting donations for the Chagrin Falls Park Community Center, Ms. Zeager said. There will be a box on the front porch to accept nonperishable food donations as well as personal care and cleaning supplies. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 19.

Ms. Zeager said the historical society decided to move forward with the Christmas exhibit because it is important to have an in-person experience.

“This whole year felt like things were just being canceled and no one likes canceling things,” she said, noting that while the museum could continue sharing exhibits virtually, it’s not quite the same. “I didn’t want us to sit on the sidelines.”

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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