During the Christmas season, people normally associate nutcrackers with the ballet, "The Nutcracker Suite." But for one Utica woman, it's the wooden statues themselves that have become a tradition and a holiday attraction for the city. For the 22nd year, Tiny's Grill is presenting its Christmas Nutcracker Display. Our Cara Thomas tells us the story behind this unique collection.
UTICA, N.Y. -- He was Joanne Gerace's first, an old, wooden, toy soldier who sat on top of her restaurant's mantle.
"He looked so good up there, but he looked so lonely up there so I started to buy more and more nutcrackers," she said.
Over the past 22 years, more than 400 nutcrackers have found a home at Tiny's Grill. Gerace says it's one of the largest nutcracker collections in the area. It attracts people every year who want to see the newest additions to her nutcracker family.
Gerace said, "People who don't know they're here just go crazy. They're like oh my gosh it's like a museum which it is, I call it the Wonderful Magic Toyshop."
Big, small, traditional or non-traditional, Gerace says where ever she goes if there's a nutcracker, she'll buy it.
"We have the swordsman, we have beautiful kings, we have the Wizard of Oz collection," she said.
Even the community is helping Gerace add to her collection. The newest additions were donated just last week, when a woman gave her more than a dozen antique nutcrackers.
Gerace said, "I'm pretty sure I'm going to be collecting them for a long time. They bring a lot of joy to me. I love putting them out for Christmas, they're special and they're special to me."
And she hopes they bring holiday joy to people young and old for many Christmas' to come.
The Nutcracker Collection can be found throughout Tiny's Grill on State Street in Utica. It's free of charge and will be up for display until the end of February.