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101 Nutcrackers are coming to town (6 photos)

Guelphites can enter a chance to win Merlin the magician by posing with him in their garden

There may be no Santa Claus parade this year, but a Guelph woman is hoping her 101 Nutcrackers will help bring some Christmas spirit to town as well as raise money for two worthy causes.

Sharron Riley-Persson, an avid Nutcracker collector and resource development director at Habitat for Humanity Wellington Dufferin Guelph, donated 97 of her 101 Nutcrackers to Rotary Club of Guelph South to be auctioned off for charity. They will be on display in the empty storefront at 101 Wyndham St. N.

Proceeds from the online auction between Nov. 1 to Nov 30 will go to Habitat for Humanity and Food4Kids.

Nutcrackers resemble toy soldiers and are often used as Christmas decorations. German folklore portrays them as protectors of a home.

“I think I’d like to donate this collection to charity and what I’d like to do is let Guelphites have a fun thing to look at,” said Riley-Persson.

Leading up to the end of the auction, community members have a chance to have one of the Nutcrackers, Merlin the magician and his bodyguard in their garden for a photo-op. Photos will be added to the Facebook group Rotary Guelph South Nutcrackers.

“The post with the most number of likes, shares and comments will get to keep Merlin,” said Rotarian Celia Clark, creator of the Facebook group. 

“They email me and I arrange for one of our Rotary members to bring him and take a photograph.”

Clark said community members have shown a lot of excitement for this initiative.

“I think we’re all jaded you know being somewhat confined,” said Clark as a result of the pandemic. “It’s just a lot of fun to see him in people's gardens.

“He is absolutely gorgeous. He’s full of colour and excitement. He’s got a very interesting crafty look to his face in that he’s basically saying, ‘Hey! You want something magical to happen?” said Riley-Persson who has been collecting the Nutcrackers for 30 years. 

The Nutcrackers hold an enormous amount of sentimental value for Riley-Persson.

“At the end of the day, both my sons are not Nutcracker lovers and so I’ve offered each of them to have one to remember me,” said Riley-Persson.

“Honestly when I pop off, I don’t want a bonfire in the backyard of these beautiful wooden creatures who have been so dear to me so I would like to find a nice home with a child who can grow up with it or somebody who maybe is a collector themselves or whatever.”

She said the hardest part in the last couple of days has been logging them, looking at them, cleaning them up and then repackaging so they can be relocated to 101 Wyndham St. N. 

“I’m a collector of a number of things but the Nutcrackers, I really, really got involved with when my mother gave me my first nutcracker,” said Riley-Persson.

“The first Nutcracker was Michaelangelo, the guardian angel and I just fell in love with Nutcrackers.”

Seeing them in various specialty stores, Riley-Persson decided to buy one Nutcracker per year as a gift to herself. 

“The obsessive-compulsive in me decided sometimes it had to be two, sometimes three, sometimes it had to be a dozen,” said Riley-Persson.

In 30 years, she collected 101 that range from six inches to six and a half feet tall that flooded her house. 

After downsizing her home this year, she stored the Nutcrackers in bins.

“I said it’s time for me to move on,” said Riley-Persson who moved to Guelph from Mississauga seven years ago. 

“The people here are so incredibly kind and generous and so different from Mississauga.”

“I figured why not take the opportunity to support the Rotary and also support these very needy charities."