For 60 years, families from the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys and beyond have visited Santa’s Christmasland at Kraynak’s
Elaine Pekarovic of Austintown remembers the annual trips to the Hermitage, Pa., store with her family when she was a child. The family of five — mom, dad and the three kids — made the yearly visits.
“My mother always took us to the Christmas one,” she said. “It was like a tradition thing because it was free.”
The tradition started when Pekarovic was about 10 and continued into her teens. Her mother though, revived the tradition when her grandchildren grew old enough to appreciate the displays.
“My mother took my nephews when they were younger and now they take their daughters and sons,” Pekarovic said. “It’s a family tradition.”
As a child, she always looked forward to the family trips.
“Because of the way that it’s all set up…It gave you tons of ideas for decorating your tree and decorating your spaces and anything that you need,” she said. “And then if there was anything you wanted to buy, you could buy it there because that’s what they did.”
It’s been a few years since she’s visited as an adult.
Dan Zippie, Kraynak’s general manager, said this year’s display is all new.
“We have the traditional themes from gingerbread and snowmen to an outside winter scene and we show Santa in a different venue every year and then we have the nativity scene in the last room,” he said.
The family-owned store opened in 1949 and Zippie’s grandfather, John Kraynak, started the Christmas display in 1963.
The display runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. It started Sept. 10 and runs through Dec. 31.
“it’s been a family tradition because many children went through the display as youngsters and every year it’s new,” Zippie said. “Every year they come back to see what’s new. They become parents and then grandparents and it’s something that a family can to for free.”
It’s a 300-foot display with 88 trees.
“It’s just been a local gem that people who grew up in the area, when they come back and visit, they want to come through the display,” he said.
The display’s highlights depend on each visitor.
“Everyone has their own favorite,” Zippie said. “Many come through several times and they spot different things they like from time to time.”
His favorite is the nativity scene.
“I like the true meaning of Christmas,” he said. “I like the nativity at the end. We feature that which is what Christmas is and I really enjoy how we enjoy how we present the nativity scene.”
While the display runs for a few months, it’s a year-long endeavor for store employees. Planning for the following year starts in January and they start making props in the spring. It involves all store employees.
“Everybody’s using their different gifts to help,” Zippie said. “It’s all done from within. It’s all Kraynak’s employees.”
The store doesn’t keep track of how many people visit the display each year, but it’s a lot.
“In November and December, it’s a constant line on those Saturdays and Sundays,” he said.