Archie was born at Chapel Hill mall one fine December day in 1968. A 20-foot tall giant in woolen scarf, black silk top hat and clutching an over-sized broom, and known as Archie Arctic, he quickly found his voice and began to entertain the mall visitors with his playful and lively banter. Soon, children began to come up to him and share their Christmas stories and wishes. For, you see, Archie was a good listener. That’s why he became so popular, drawing thousands of visitors to his display every holiday season.
Later, he thought it would be trendy to go by the name of just ‘Archie.’ The girls and boys really loved him. So, it was with great sadness and surprise, when, after 35 years, Archie suffered a nervous breakdown and struggled with severe depression, claiming the stress of standing there motionless was just too much to bear and he abruptly went into hibernation in 2003.
But, you’ll be happy to know – “He’s back!” After a near decade of hibernation, Archie the Talking Snowman is back to get to know a whole new generation of young people this holiday season at Lock 3’s Holiday Fest in downtown Akron. Located in his new Winter Wonderland in the basement level of the former O’Neil’s building, next to the Lock 3 skating rink, Archie stands magnificently tall in his new area next to Santa’s workshop. He is surrounded by some of the old Christmas displays from the O’Neil’s department store windows, such as: Mother Goose; the Three Little Pigs and other nursery rhyme characters; the Queen of Hearts and Alice in Wonderland; Peter Pan, Wendy and Capt. Hook’s ship; Cabbage Patch villages and Nutcrackers galore. You’ll wander through a forest of many Christmas trees and see Tinker Toy sets next to Care Bears in Santa’s workshop.
All this started back in August. Refurbishment of some items was begun in July, explained Marianna Alacchi, a special effects make-up artist and Screen Actors Guild member who specializes in restoration and doing realistic special effects and recreations for homicide detectives. So she is well qualified to work on restoring the display characters that have been in storage all these decades.
“Mother Goose’s nose was totally destroyed. So we had to rebuild her nose. It is much prettier. Pocahontas had no hair or color in her face. Peter Pan had some broken fingers. Everything was filthy, dirty and had to be meticulously cleaned,” Alacchi said as she directed a crew of volunteers in preparing the old exhibits for display.
Dave Lieberth, former Akron Deputy Mayor stated: “The real significance of this whole exhibit is what was done here to capture three generations of memories. First of all, you have people who are 50 to 70 years old for whom the O’Neil’s store windows were a Christmas memory. Then you’ve got people from about 30 to about 50 for whom Archie the Snowman was part of their childhood and something they remember, perhaps even with their own young children. Then, the third generation is what we’ve created at Lock 3. Because, since 2004, we’ve been providing memories to children who now remember Christmas by coming to Lock 3 and ice skating, or going down the sledding hill. So that is what I think is the significant part of this, we’re making memories for new generations of kids and that’s important.”
Archie is available to visit at his Enchanted Encounter until Dec. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays; noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, as well as noon to 8 p.m. Dec. 26 – 28. Archie is part of Holiday Fest at Lock 3. Other events and activities include: the 6th annual Winter Farmer’s Market, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 15 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 16 in O’Neil’s basement; ice skating; 150-foot sledding hill; a holiday market; food and drinks; train rides; and local Akron history and toy exhibits.
Sponsors include Medical Mutual, Chapel Hill mall, Goodyear, Bridgestone, the Akron Community Foundation and other local businesses. For a full list of events and attractions, hours and info visit www.lock3live.com.