Judy Godfrey, a fine art appraiser and former president of The Grace Museum, has been collecting nutcrackers since 1971.
“My first nutcracker was one my mother gave me,” Godfrey said. “It is from the San Francisco Music Box store. He is the traditional Nutcracker Prince standing on top a drum that plays the theme from ‘The Nutcracker.’ Definitely my favorite.“
The nutcrackers trickled in as she purchased one or two each year to add to the collection, and her brother gave her a few at Christmas. The collection picked up significant steam the year he gifted her 10-15 nutcrackers at Christmas.
“I had so many I could not display them all,” she said. “I knew we needed to come up with a different way to display them, and I thought of a nutcracker tree shaped like a regular Christmas tree.”
Her brother came to the rescue and built the basic tree form. Over the years an Abilene friend has added height to it and last year made a platform. It now stands 9’ tall. Godfrey initially displayed the nutcracker tree at home for the holidays when her family was in town.
“It is a lot of work, so it had to be worth it,” she said. “Two years ago, I felt it was time that a larger audience enjoy it since it is unique.”
Godfrey began by sharing her tree, naturally, with the Abilene Ballet Theatre as they prepared to perform “The Nutcracker.” It was quite a hit at the Abilene Woman’s Club for their Sugar Plum Fairy Tea in 2016.
The Grace Museum staff saw it and asked if they could have it the next year. It will be on display there again this year as well.
“It is fun to put it up at The Grace as some of the staff, three wonderful volunteers and I spend an entire day assembling it,” Godfrey said. “Having the event staff help is so fine as those strong, nimble young men don’t mind climbing ladders to place the nutcrackers on the tallest rings.”
Through the venue of The Grace Museum, thousands of people enjoyed it last year. Many offices had a Christmas photo taken in front of the tree. Godfrey kept about 15 nutcrackers – her very first one and a few others – to display at home.
“Each nutcracker evokes a special memory of an event or experience. They have brought me so much joy throughout many Christmas holiday seasons. Now, I am thrilled to share them with so many others,” Godfrey said.