Prairie Village News 7/11/17

Faron Wahl, Manager

Nothing is quite as disappointing as a stale cookie. If you enjoy cookies like I do, you anticipate and savor that first bite well before tasting it, thus amplifying the overall eating experience. But if you bite into a stale specimen from a batch made three weeks ago, disappointment prevails. You might as well not be eating a cookie.

When our eyes see the same thing again and again without change, the experience becomes visually stale. We’ve had 5 mph speed limit signs around the village for years, but recently changing some of them to reflective steel signs of different colors made many people take notice, even though the new signs say the same thing as the old ones. Problem is…. the old ones had become stale to the eyes, so much that most folks didn’t see them anymore.

Now carry that over to our three dozen-plus artifact-filled buildings. Many of them feature gated rooms offering a doorway glimpse into individual aspects of earlier life – small feature vignettes, if you will. While our buildings get dusted and swept out during each season, these rooms can nonetheless become stale to the eye. Moving furniture and deep cleaning each one takes more time than has typically been available, so years can innocently go by with only light cleanings.

Not so beginning in 2017. I vowed to start this season digging in deeper, freshening up what has become visually stale to the degree that it’s either not looking its best or that people are simply not seeing the details anymore. I pondered many of our buildings at length and then discussed this in-depth with Bev and Haley, two of my trusted leaders. And a plan was hatched.

One by one, individual rooms are being re-done from the doorway in. We can’t replace each wall covering or fix every crack in the plaster, but all contents of each room we tackle are on the hit list. Every single item gets moved, everything gets cleaned, and each item is replaced thoughtfully. A few items need to go, and others can be better positioned.

And then there are the mannequins – the plastic village support staff populating several of our rooms. No doubt they came to us filling well-intended purposes, but some of these frightful figures would scare a grown man in broad daylight, as I’ve learned firsthand. Over time limbs or partial torsos have dropped off, hair has disappeared, and they have become less complimentary and more like supporting cast from an ‘80s horror movie. This summer is their final curtain call.

These waxy wonders are being replaced with dress forms – basically body-shaped structures without human likeness – more appropriately suited to displaying a period suit or wedding dress. And we’re told these forms are far better for the longevity of the linens themselves, whereas mannequin plastic tends to break down fabric. Our rigid residents have tickets on the last stage headed out of town.

One more thing about this project…. I’d rather see us complete a few rooms well than try too hard to give them all a quick makeover, only to do an average job across the board. The aim here is for the new visitor to note that our displays clearly receive attention, and for the repeat visitor to be grabbed by the freshness evident since their last visit. We’ll only take on the ones we can handle, and we’ll do them well. There’s always the next season or two for what’s left.

I challenge you to look closer next time you visit, moseying from building to building. Yes, there will be rooms yet untouched, but you shouldn’t have to squint to notice the ones that have received transformations. We hope you’ll be as pleased to see the difference as we are to offer it.

And our beloved mannequins will happily begin a new synthetic life elsewhere.