PEI

Nutcracker sculptures at Charlottetown shops carve out holiday cheer

Islanders taking a stroll through downtown Charlottetown this holiday season may notice some friendly new faces greeting them outside local shops and restaurants. 

'There's no two nutcrackers that are the same'

Local illustrator Allison Wolvers has been working hard to get Kuriosities' nutcracker ready for the holiday season. (Sam Juric/CBC)

Islanders taking a stroll through downtown Charlottetown this holiday season may notice some friendly new faces greeting them outside local shops and restaurants. 

They're very Christmasy, it reminds me of the Nutcracker ballet that I used to watch every Christmas.— Kimberly McIntyre

For the first time, some local businesses will be showcasing wooden nutcracker sculptures as a part of Downtown Charlottetown Inc.'s most recent holiday beautification initiative.

"There's no two nutcrackers that are the same," said Dawn Alan, DCI's executive director. 

So far, about 14 businesses have signed up and purchased a nutcracker from DCI to decorate to their individual tastes, including the Old Triangle, Kinetic Fitness and the Craft Beer Corner.

From driftwood comes art

Darryl Ashford, who made the move from Newfoundland to the Island about 12 years ago, is the artist behind the sculptures and uses a chainsaw to carve them. 

So far, about 14 businesses have signed up and purchased a nutcracker from Downtown Charlottetown Inc. to decorate to their individual tastes, including the Old Triangle, Kinetic Fitness and the Craft Beer Corner. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Until now, Ashford has focused on nautical imagery for his sculptures, often depicting whimsical fishermen and sea captains in his work.

But when DCI approached him with the idea of creating nutcrackers for the holiday season, he was happy to diverge from his usual source of inspiration.

Ashford uses driftwood for many of his sculptures.

The nutcrackers are typically about 1.2 metres or four feet tall and weigh between 23 to 30 kilograms. 

"The businesses that have adopted the nutcracker this year will have them forever and we'll encourage them to put them out every year," Alan said. 

Bringing back memories

One of the participating businesses for this year's initiative is Kuriosities on Victoria Row. 

Dawn Alan, the executive director of Downtown Charlottetown Inc., says she hopes shops will continue to put out their nutcrackers out for years to come. (CBC)

"They're very Christmasy, it reminds me of the Nutcracker ballet that I used to watch every Christmas," said shop owner Kimberly McIntyre. 

"We used to always have a nutcracker out at Christmas time and crack all the walnuts open with it." 

McIntyre said DCI's nutcracker initiative gives local shops the opportunity to be creative and celebrate small business. 

Local illustrator and 3-D artist Allison Wolvers works at Kuriosities and has been working hard for the past week or so to bring the store's nutcracker to life. 

She said deciding on the personality of their nutcracker was fairly simple, using the shop's green colour palette as inspiration. 

"Well the store has a very older esthetic, so we wanted to make sure the nutcracker was more of a traditional nutcracker that you would see in like the old Nutcracker book with the old illustrations," Wolvers said.

Wolvers jokes she affectionately refers to the nutcracker as Prince Eric. 

Painting the shop's nutcracker took about a week, says Wolvers. (Sam Juric/CBC)

Digital map and contest

As a part of the initiative, DCI will be launching a digital map for Islanders to find and visit the nutcrackers. 

Islanders will also be given the opportunity to vote on the nutcracker they like best on the organization's website. 

Alan anticipates the digital map will be up and running sometime this week. 

"I hope that it grows year after year," she said. "Hopefully we'll add a whole lot more merchants to the list next year as well." 

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About the Author

Sam Juric

Web Writer

Sam Juric is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. and can be reached at samantha.juric@cbc.ca.

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