Eye on KELOLAND: A jaw-dropping collection

Eye on KELOLAND

LUVERNE, Minn. (KELO) – By this point, you’ve probably started decorating for Christmas. From lights on your house, to the tree there’s all sorts of decorations.

One that often has to do with this time of year, is a nutcracker. And one KELOLAND museum has a jaw-dropping exhibit that you might just want to check.

You won’t just find hundreds of nutcrackers here at the Rock County History Center, but thousands.

This exhibit all started because of Betty Mann. She had a collection of over 2,500 and decided to donate them back in 2016.

“I had heard people say, ‘let’s go see the museum,’ and the next person said, ‘you’ve seen one museum, you’ve seen them all,’ and I thought if I donate these nutcrackers to the museum, you’re not going to see that in a lot of museums,” president Rock County Historical Society, Betty Mann said.

And she was right, this exhibit draws in all sorts of people.

“We have had people from Norway, from Germany, people will be driving down I-90 and they will see the billboard there and they’ll say, ‘hey we have to stop,’ that billboard brings in a lot of people,” executive director, Wendel Buys said.

Mann started collecting nutcrackers 20 years ago.

“I’ll show you the first nutcracker that I ever bought, and it’s this one up here with the cape. I paid $6 for that, and it was just a whim,” Mann said.

That was back in 2001.

“In 2000 I lost my husband and my daughter, and that was a tough Christmas for me as you can imagine,” Mann said. “The first Saturday of 2001, I was in the Cracker Barrel in Sioux Falls and everything Christmas was half price, and I was with my daughter-in-law, and I said, ‘I’ve had a tough Christmas and I’ve always wanted a wooden nutcracker, and I’m buying myself a belated Christmas present.”

And she’s been collecting ever since.

“In fact, I have a few in my car that I need to bring in,” Mann said. “I go to stores, antique stores, flea markets, any place, and I’ve done a lot of traveling since I lost my husband, so I always look for a nutcracker as a souvenir.”

Over the years, others have helped contribute to the exhibit. Bringing the total to over 4,500.

“Robert Black when he found out about our collection, he was a collector in Sioux Falls, and he was downsizing, so he gave over 1,300. 300 or so were duplicates and we don’t want any duplicates so that added about 1,000 to our collection,” Buys said. “People will come in with one or two, the other day a few ladies brought in some they had found an estate sale, and I think there was about 12 to 15 in that.”

All of the nutcrackers are sorted into different groups, like occupations, Uncle Sam, Santa, and even snowmen.

“Whenever I see something that I don’t have I usually buy it,” Mann said.

While this exhibit is constantly growing, some of the nutcrackers are a little more special to Mann.

“This little one out of Legos, I have a great grandson, who six years ago was eight years old, and he whispered in my ear, ‘grandma, I made you a nutcracker out of Legos,’ so that one means a lot to me,” Mann said.

Bringing the holiday spirit all year round to Luverne.

“As long as Betty is around and there are nutcrackers around and to be bought or found, it will change or grow,” Buys said.

“I am a collector and I tell everybody it’s a disease,” Mann said.

Mann says they don’t have the largest collection of nutcrackers. They know of at least two others that have more in both Washington and Texas.

To learn more about what other exhibits the museum has, click here.

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