Arts & Entertainment Community

Movie scene displays frame a festive downtown holiday season

Posted on December 23rd, 2022 By:

Those little movie scenes that popped up along the waterfront earlier this month?

They began back in October as an idea to bring some joy to downtown businesses still reeling from the double-whammy of COVID and a Harborview Drive roundabout project that seemed to go on forever.

The movie scene idea blossomed into the life-size displays from three much-loved holiday entertainment favorites: “The Polar Express,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Nutcracker ballet. The displays were installed just in time for Christmas.

An “It’s a Wonderful Life”-themed display at Bogue Viewing Platform in Gig Harbor. Charlee Glock-Jackson

The “Polar Express” sleigh and reindeer scene is in the pavilion at Skansie Park. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is at the Bogue viewing platform in the Finholm district. And the Nutcracker is set up at Ancich Waterfront Park.

The brick house Visitor Center in Skansie Park hosts a smaller scene – a leg lamp and a Christmas tree from “A Christmas Story.” That one lacks the distinctive frame of the other three.

The scenes will stay in place through the first week in January. They’ve become popular photo spots for locals and visitors alike.

The idea

Laura Pettit, the city’s former tourism and communications director, came up with the idea last fall, according to City Administrator Katrina Knutson.

Pettit got together with Tammi Barber, owner of the popular (but now closed) Frills boutique, to bring the idea to fruition.

“It was Laura’s brainchild from the start, and it’s really been well received,” Knutson said. “Then the combination of Laura and Tammi turned out to be a wonderful marriage to make this project happen so beautifully,” Knutson said.

“People were so sad when Frills had to close, and this was a perfect way to get Tammi involved in another project that shows her amazing skills.”

It took about six weeks to finalize the concept, Barber said. “Then once we decided on the movie idea, we knew we wanted to work with movies that were really easy to identify.” And easy to create within the small space allotted for each scene.

The “Polar Express” display during the city Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at Skansie Brothers Park on Dec. 3, 2022. Julie Warrick Ammann

‘Holidays coming to life’

Barber’s company, TLB Events, did all the work in designing and fabricating the vignettes, gathering and building props and creating custom pieces like the large frames and some of the signage.

Many of the items used in the scenes were already on hand in Barber’s amazing collection of props at her warehouse. The city ordered other items and now owns them for future use, Barber said.

Her team of five helpers (elves?) created and installed the components of each installation. In spite of the very tight time frame, snow and chilly weather, everything was finished by Dec. 2 – just in time for the city’s Christmas tree lighting festivities.

“Even though it was cold, it actually made it feel like the holidays were really coming to life,” Barber said. “Especially when we were working on the ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ scene.”

A Nutcracker-themed display at Ancich Park in Gig Harbor. Charlee Glock-Jackson

Returning to downtown

When the landlord declined to renew the lease on Barber’s Frills location on Harborview Drive, she had to close the shop. People missed the colorful scenes that decorated the outside of the store. Barber was sad to leave the downtown space.

So when the opportunity came to create the holiday scenes, she jumped on it immediately.

“It was such a blessing to me to be able to put our stamp on downtown once again,” she said. “We have missed our little downtown shop location and really loved being able to show again what our TLB Events team can create.”

She’s on the hunt for another downtown location for a new Frills. Meanwhile, there’s a “little mini Frills” at her warehouse location where, she said, “..we have transformed it into a petite version of the storefront.”

The mini Frills shop is open by appointment only, through the Frills website.

A sleigh and reindeer display in the pavilion at Skansie Brothers Park on the Gig Harbor waterfront. Charlee Glock-Jackson