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Old Dayton's holiday figurines on display in Minnetrista home

William Ewald has collected and restored what is believed to be the largest private collection of Dayton's 8th floor Christmas figurines.

MINNETRISTA, Minnesota — Many Minnesotans have fond memories of the holiday display on the 8th floor of Dayton's.

From the 1960s up until 2016, a new holiday show would showcase intricate puppets brought to life. It was magical... until the store closed and they sold off every last animatronic from the Grinch to Tiny Tim.

That is until Minnetrista resident, William Ewald, used his passion for preservation hoping to bring back a piece of Minnesota history just in time for the holidays. 

"Every driver that comes to the house is looking in the window going 'What is going on in this house,'" said William, whose Christmas decorations are truly one-of-a-kind.

What once lived on the 8th floor of Dayton's during the holiday season now lives on in his living room. 

"There's about 40 unique pieces to the original Dayton's display," said William. "The lamps you see on this table, the clocks, there are some very small unique pieces that went with the display, so 40 pieces total."

William tells me he has collected and restored what is believed to be the largest private collection of Dayton's 8th floor Christmas figurines. 

The holiday pieces range from old Dayton's brochures to animatronics dating back to the 1960s. Each cost William between $5 and $30.

"I just started going back down there as the sale continued on and collecting pieces, picking up probably the most damaged ones," William said. "The ones that I knew would support my hobby in restoration and helping bring them back to life as close as possible to the original artist condition."

The saying "what's old is new again" didn't just happen overnight.

"Probably a hundred hours at least… if not more," said William. 

Hours he spent restoring the motors and fans, painting, dressing and building brand new sets to bring these figurines back to life.

"There's more pieced, we're kind of running out of room but with that being said, I'm looking to restore more pieces and preserve the history," William said. 

William hopes his refurbished display will one day be used for a greater purpose- not for profit, but for charitable causes.

"That's really the goal, is to get them seen again by as many people that remember them growing up and the new little ones who have never seen them for the first time."

Last year William loaned his display out to the GLOW festival and the downtown Dayton's project as well as the Minnesota Warrior Hockey Team, a charitable hockey program for wounded veterans.  


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