Giant nutcracker a fundraising hit in Vandergrift
While Santa Claus and the Grinch can’t be denied at this time of year, it’s the 9-foot-tall nutcracker in Vandergrift on Saturday that will draw residents and pets for photo ops and a donation.
For the second year, Kelly’s Salon and Gathering Room, at the corner of Columbia and Grant, will host the monster nutcracker outside of its shop for holiday photos from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. to benefit the Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center, a women’s shelter in Tarentum.
A crowd pleaser, the nutcracker drew families and their pets last year, helping to raise over $500, according to Kelly Adamik, owner of Kelly’s Salon and Gathering Room in Vandergrift
Word got around town fast last year as it was hard to miss the towering holiday beacon outside of Adamik’s shop in the heart of downtown Vandergrift.
She had no choice. It was too tall to bring indoors.
Adamik is happy for a return appearance to again benefit the Hope Center.
“Nobody has the nutcracker,” she said.
“I can’t believe the ballet hasn’t found out about this and hasn’t taken it down to Pittsburgh,” Adamik said.
A traveling nutcracker was not the intent of the creators of the colorful soldier doll, who custom-made the holiday decoration for the outside of their Allegheny Township home.
LeeAnne Zabinski saw the idea on the Pinterest website, according to her husband, Tom, and asked him to make it.
It took a year for Zabinski to fill his wife’s request, at first refusing to do the job because of the difficulty of crafting all of the round pieces. A compromise was struck when LeeAnne Zabinski showed her husband a 16-inch nutcracker that had many square parts.
“I could build you that one,” he told his wife and proceeded to scale the model up to nine feet.
Zabinski used scraps around the house, including six-inch plastic pipe for the legs and arms.
The head was difficult but not insurmountable: A discount store ball covered over with paper mache served as the face, bringing the faux wooden soldier to life.
Zabinski got his first full season in 2017 when Adamik, a friend of his wife, requested it for the fundraiser for the Hope Center, which she has been doing for six years.
He was surprised by the popularity of his creation.
“I had people say on Facebook they liked it, but it wasn’t like anybody wanted to buy it.”
For Zabinski, who is considering making a second one, it’s all about honoring a request.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary Ann at 724-226-4691, email@example.com or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.