- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Bismarck’s Sioux Avenue has transformed into Christmas Toyland for 59 years.

It started with a cryptic note: “Come have coffee with the hobo.”

A stuffed hobo marked the spot one fall day in 1956. People found their way, wandering into the backyard after church, said Ardyce Miller, one of the original organizers. There they would find Christmas crafts in the making.

The neighbors picked an image, which was projected onto plywood and cut out. The women painted them.

Jokingly, the neighbors said houses on the street could not be sold without the yard ornaments, Miller told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/1Yq7Vlu ). But everyone took it seriously and driving down the street, passers-by will see them still today.

There’s a story to go with each: an airplane for the man in charge of Northwest Airlines, an organ for the pastor and the Hamm’s Beer bear for the man who peddled the product.

Miller and her late husband, Bob, have Raggedy Ann and Andy to match the dolls her mother-in-law had sewn for their daughter.

Former Tribune Editor John Hjelle, who helped the Millers organize the event, had a jack-in-the-box to represent his four active daughters.

There was a cat taken twice from its yard.

“But it would always wander back,” Miller said. “We said a cat always returns to home.”

Miller is the last original neighbor on the street who helped make the ornaments, but the tradition has been passed on by word of mouth.

“There are three new people on the block this year, and they’ve got their figures out,” Miller said. “I’m very proud of it, truthfully.”

Fred and Carol Kitko moved into former Bismarck City Auditor Tom Baker’s home in 1980, and they were told about the giraffe ornament. Fred Kitko’s father had lived in the neighborhood and had “The Night Before Christmas” ornament.

“It’s been fun; it gives it a spirit of old-fashioned neighborliness,” Carol Kitko said.

The Kitkos said they run into people who have told them their parents used to take them to the street to look at the decorations each year and they often see limos on Christmas light tours drive by this time of year.

The Millers got the idea for the ornaments after talking with friends in Des Moines about how much fun they had making similar ornaments. The Millers told their neighbors.

“And off it went,” Miller said.

When the neighbors were making them, it was about the time the hula hoop was gaining popularity. The Millers had brought one back with them from the West Coast.

“They were the rage out there,” Miller said. “We had more fun trying to work that hula hoop. … There’s a lot of memories for me on this street.”

The neighborhood lights up the ornaments at night starting the first Saturday after Thanksgiving and leaves them up through New Year’s Day.

“If the owners were still here, they would laugh about it,” Miller said.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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