Children giggling with delight is the reward that Cheri Krejci enjoys most
A Port Washington woman who loves Christmas has given an early gift to the community, donating her time and decorations to turn the windows of the former Lueptow‚Äôs furniture store into fanciful
Christmas displays that have children running from window to window and people pulling out their cameras.
That‚Äôs all the reward she needs, said Cheri Krejci, who created the displays from her seemingly endless collection of Christmas items.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs so much fun when I‚Äôm doing it and people come by and give me the thumbs up,‚ÄĚ Krejci said. ‚ÄúI love seeing kids running from window to window giggling and people taking pictures. One father shook my hand and said, ‚ÄėThank you,‚Äô with tears in his eyes.
‚ÄúThe best memories I have of Christmas were going with my grandmother to see the windows in Marshall Fields in Chicago. I want children here to have similar memories.‚ÄĚ
Krejci doesn‚Äôt just love Christmas, she becomes immersed in it, covered from head to foot with glitter and snow. She enjoys decorating her home ‚ÄĒ which took a back seat to the Lueptow‚Äôs windows ‚ÄĒ and other people‚Äôs homes. The work is her gift to friends and family.
She also helped decorate the historic Ozaukee County Courthouse and Port Light Station for gala fundraisers.
But she most enjoys decorating storefront windows and watching people‚Äôs reactions.
‚ÄúThe others are private homes or something people had to pay to see,‚ÄĚ Krejci said.
‚ÄúPeople can just walk by these windows and it doesn‚Äôt cost them anything to have fun. It gives a boost to people and spreads the Christmas spirit. It makes it fun for people to come down here, and hopefully they walk into the stores and give them more business.
‚ÄúI feel good. I did something that impacts people, and that‚Äôs a neat feeling.‚ÄĚ
Merton Lueptow, who owns the building with his brother Wayne, said some people have been thanking him, thinking he‚Äôs responsible for the windows.
‚ÄúCheri does it all, and I‚Äôm glad she‚Äôs getting some recognition. It wouldn‚Äôt look like that if I did it,‚ÄĚ Lueptow said. ‚ÄúShe does a wonderful job and has all these things.
‚ÄúIt makes the building and the downtown look great during the holidays. I see people stopping all the time to look at it.‚ÄĚ
His favorite is an Eskimo village with a large igloo and penguins skating and playing in the snow. That scene is in the window north of the entrance.
In the main window, Krejci put many of her favorite cartoon characters, several of them animated, at the North Pole, a ski resort or on a mountain train ride to visit Santa.
Winnie the Pooh characters are in a train headed for a candy-festooned tunnel that leads to the North Pole.
On the other side of the tunnel, reindeer flying school is in progress. One hapless deer didn‚Äôt make it over a wire.
‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt always make it on the first try,‚ÄĚ Krejci said.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse are welcoming people into Santa‚Äôs home, which has a decorated Christmas tree.
A reindeer nods its head from the barn.
On the other side of the barn is a ski chalet. A myriad of characters, including Bullwinkle and Cookie Monster, are skiing, sledding or falling on a snow-covered hill.
In the forefront, Donald Duck is ready to play hockey, while a second Mickey and Minnie prepare to skate.
Large snowflakes, some with penguins, angels or elves dangling from them, hang on invisible fish line in all the windows.
Krejci found most of her decorations at rummage sales or second-hand shops. One object can spark a whole scene in her mind.
‚ÄúI bought this little screen door at St. Vinnie‚Äôs (Vincent De Paul Store in Port) and told my husband, ‚ÄėIsn‚Äôt this cute?‚Äô He said, ‚ÄėYeah, what about it?‚Äô‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúI told him, ‚ÄėIt needs a ski chalet.‚Äô We had always wanted a reindeer barn, so he made one end a ski chalet and the other end a reindeer barn. It comes apart, so we can store it flat.‚ÄĚ
The penguin scene was inspired by an igloo doghouse Krejci also found at St. Vinnie‚Äôs.
‚ÄúBill (her husband) painted the igloo to look like ice blocks. I didn‚Äôt know there were so many penguin, seal and walrus Beanie Babies until I started looking for penguins,‚ÄĚ Krejci said.
Her husband is a vital ‚ÄĒ although he claims reluctant ‚ÄĒ part of the operation.
‚ÄúHe keeps saying, ‚ÄėThis isn‚Äôt my hobby,‚Äô but I tell him what I need and he does it. He hung the lights and snowflakes,‚ÄĚ said Krejci, who often worked past midnight to finish the windows in time for Port‚Äôs Christmas parade and Christmas on the Corners event Dec. 4.
Krejci offered to decorate storefront windows in Port Washington three years ago when her house was being remodeled.She couldn‚Äôt stand seeing the unopened Christmas boxes stacked in the house.
Bill had also lost his job and she needed to do something that made her happy, Krejci said.
That year, she decorated a smaller downtown Port store that had two windows. She put a Victorian Santa scene in one window and Disney characters sledding, skiing and skating in the other window. She also had a Cinderella display in Jung‚Äôs Furniture Store window in Cedarburg.
Last year, the story of Cinderalla played out in Lueptow‚Äôs windows.
This is Krejci‚Äôs most ambitious project because the empty store allowed her to expand the depth of the displays.
She was innovative, turning canopy bed frames into Mickey and Minnie‚Äôs house at the North Pole. A hammock stand is the base for the ski hill. Krejci doesn‚Äôt know how many hours she put into the displays.
‚ÄúI feel very peaceful when it‚Äôs all decorated,‚ÄĚ Krejci said.
She doesn‚Äôt even mind taking it down.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs the end of the season,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúLast year, I was fine until two little heads popped up as I was taking down the last window. Their grandparents had seen the windows and brought them from Illinois to see them. I felt so bad. I wanted to put it back up for them.‚ÄĚ
When she‚Äôs not decorating, Krejci is a health coordinator at Columbia St. Mary‚Äôs Ozaukee Hospital in Mequon.