LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
It's December, which means tinkling music and twinkly lights everywhere you go, garlands on street lights and glitter on snowmen, light strings on fir trees in front of bright houses. Or maybe you're the type of person who puts on holiday blinders when you're out and about. WEEKEND EDITION's holiday correspondent, Lucy Perkins, talked to a woman whose job it is to make you stop and look, even if just for a minute. She distills the holidays inside shop windows right on busy Fifth Avenue in New York City.
LUCY PERKINS, BYLINE: The famous window displays at Lord and Taylor are far more complicated than a few mannequins dressed in Santa suits. They're more like festive pieces of art. There's a sweets shop full of cakes and baked goods on a spinning conveyor belt. Doors of an advent calendar swing open and shut to music. And directly underneath the sidewalk that people window-shopping walk on, is where those windows are built.
It feels like we're going into a secret - secret cave.
My guide is Roe Palermo. She's the divisional vice president for visuals at Lord and Taylor. In other words, it's her job to figure out what the Christmas window displays will look like every year. And Roe has a history with these windows.
ROE PALERMO: My Aunt Joan, she would always buy me my special dress from Lord and Taylor. And also, she would always bring me to see New York holiday windows since I was, like, 5.
PERKINS: The workshop looks like a graveyard of holidays past. There are cardboard pinecone cut outs covered in glitter and boxes upon boxes of plastic Canada geese. Roe's team decorated them with holiday wreaths for several displays this year. We stop in front of an elevator that lifts one of this year's displays up to the street.
PALERMO: You can see the cuckoo clock and the acorn pendulum swinging and part of the video monitor. When we go upstairs, you'll see the big grandiose cuckoo clock upstairs.
PERKINS: The sparkly white cuckoo clock is one of five windows that Lord and Taylor unveils every December. Everything on the clock glitters. Squirrels run up the sides while other creatures nestle into little nooks in the clock. At midnight, an animation of colorful fireworks explode in the background. From the street, the windows glimmer. Another window houses dancing gingerbread men.
PALERMO: There's a thousand gingerbread men holding up this tasty tray of a gingerbread house.
PERKINS: Are there actually a thousand? How many are there?
PALERMO: There's about 320 gingerbread men in there.
PERKINS: What are they made out of?
PALERMO: They're made out of foam. They're made out of magic, come on. You know, and look at the detail of that gingerbread house.
PERKINS: Palermo and her team start planning in February and come up with about 10 good ideas. Then they do storyboards, figure out the mechanics and pick the best ones. As soon as the displays are up, she has to start thinking about next year's designs. But honestly, she never really wants to take them down in the first place. And she says the payoff is huge.
PALERMO: People stop. And all of a sudden they - oh, wow. Look at this. And then they start looking at the windows. And then that brings back a memory. And even if it's just for two minutes or two seconds, it made someone, during their hectic day, smile.
PERKINS: This year, part of the building was under construction, and scaffolding hid Lord and Taylor's famous windows from the street. Roe's solution, cover all the scaffolding entirely in garland and Christmas lights. It looks like a winter wonderland. Lucy Perkins, NPR News, New York.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A MARSHMALLOW WORLD")
DEAN MARTIN: (Singing) It's a marshmallow world in the winter, when the snow come to cover the ground. It's time for play. It's a whipped cream day. I wait for it the whole year round. Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly...
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